(Im)Mobilities in the Time of the "Muslim Ban": The Limits of Mobility Reconsidered in the Lives of Newly Settled Syrian and Iraqi Refugees in Houston, Texas
(Sultan Qaboos University)
Maria Curtis (University of Houston-Clear Lake)
Paper short abstract:
Reflecting on "countless mobilities" (Urry, 2001), this paper examines social media and technology vis-à-vis intimacy, friendship, and kinship in the lives of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Houston, Texas. (Im)mobility means navigating ambivalence, consciousness, and depths of human connectedness.
Paper long abstract:
Reflecting on the concept of "countless mobilities" (Urry, 2001), this paper examines how social media and technology creates intimacy, friendship, and kinship in the lives of Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Houston, Texas. Houston is America's 4th largest city where 1 in 10 people are foreign born, thus contributing to its status as America's most ethnically diverse city. Refugee families migrated during the Obama administration are newly "immobile" in the wake of the so-called "Muslim Ban", Technology offers digital place making and alternate virtual sanctuary. Having dinner with loved ones at a great physical distance via Facetime fosters imagined community more pleasurable than face-to-face encounters with new neighbors whose culture, language, experiences feel unknown. Here, we must reconsider the essence of mobility, and the complex nature of "resettlement" itself. Technology offers openings and new possibilities, but it also creates the "unsettling" effects of being able, for example, to watch via Goggle satellite how one's homeland has changed, and to process those jarring images alongside nostalgic photos and videos of homelands as they once were before forced displacement. Navigating between alternate forms of reality may help, or hinder, feeling authentically (re)settled into a new home. The refugee body may have escaped the physical threats of war, but experiencing safety in the heart and mind is another matter altogether. The new normalcy of (im)mobility means navigating ambivalent and disjointed layers of reality and consciousness, negotiating multiple depths of privacy, and experiencing multiple understandings of proximity and connectedness.
Creating locality in mobile times: intimacy, friendship and belonging between digital and physical co-presence [ANTHROMOB]