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Free Content The politics of transnational affective capital: Digital connectivity among young Somalis stranded in Ethiopia

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This article presents an explorative qualitative case study of how sixteen young Somali migrants stranded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia feel about staying in touch with loved ones abroad using Internet-based transnational communication. Left-behind during transit migration from Somalia to overseas, at this moment they can only digitally connect with contacts living inside for example dreamed diasporic locations in Europe. Based on in-depth interviews, a focus group and concept maps drawn by informants the ambivalent workings of affects spurred by transnational communication are explored. The intense feelings of togetherness originating in Skype video-chat, mobile phone calls and Facebook use are conceptualized with the notion of transnational affective capital – one of the only sources of capital the informants have. The ambivalence of transnational affective capital is scrutinized by exploring whether such connectivity routines offer trust, enable anxiety management and promote ‘ontological security’. Alternatively, the question arises whether transnational communication may further exacerbate ontological insecurity: discomfort, unsettlement and increased anxiety related to the precarious situation of being stranded.

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Keywords: Somali migrants; concept-maps; digital connectivity; focus group; in-depth interviews; ontological security; transnational affective capital; transnational communication

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: London School of Economics

Publication date: March 1, 2014

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  • The course of cultures at both local and global levels is crucially affected by migratory movements. In turn, culture itself is turned migrant. This journal will advance the study of the plethora of cultural texts on migration produced by an increasing number of cultural practitioners across the globe who tackle questions of culture in the context of migration. They do this in a variety of ways and through a variety of media. To name but a few relevant aspects of this juncture of migration and culture, questions of dislocation, travel, borders, diasporic identities, transnational contacts and cultures, cultural memory, the transmission of identity across generations, questions of hybridity and cultural difference, the material and oral histories of migration and the role of new technologies in bridging cultures and fostering cultural cross-pollination will all be relevant. Methodologies of research will include both the study of 'texts' and fieldwork.
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