How can digital humanities contribute to empowering processes through arts and music1? In this long paper, we aim to analyse Tunisian representations of Europe through images, music and video clips. This in turn forms part of a broader research project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation that investigates undocumented mobility in the context of recent developments in Tunisia. Even after the events of the “Arab Spring” and its demands for dignity and liberty, the desire of young men (harragas) to “burn their papers” (harga), to leave their country of first citizenship and to reach Europe still persists. However, such a desire to escape one’s overall circumstances cannot be reduced to merely economic motives. Undocumented mobility is by no means a one-dimensional, single-layered process governed by “push-and-pull factors”, but reflects the transnational social imaginaire and its various cultural resources as well.
New media such as social networks, blogs and YouTube, as well as their mobile symbolizations, sounds and images, contribute to the dissemination of mobilization, dissent and disagreement, creating a transnational2 socio-cultural space and public spheres in which current (and past) situations are negotiated and contested3. Based on ethnographical fieldwork in Tunisia and Switzerland, as well as on digital anthropology of social networks4 and blogs5, this research project deals with the increasingly important role of these spaces and thus contributes to a fresh and innovative approach that relates undocumented mobility, (political) mobilization, transnational practices and the (gendered) social imaginaire.
What do Tunisian migrants expect of the country they emigrate to? Do they hope to find a job easily, improving their living conditions as soon as they arrive in Europe? In this paper, we aim to reveal migrants’ expectations of moving from Tunisia to Europe. We will take into account the representations of migrants before they leave their country of origin as well as those of migrants already living in Europe. We also seek to understand if these expectations are always the same or if they differ from one person to another. Can we identify certain mental representations that are widespread? By listing semiotic as well as audio-visual representations, we aim to understand what the most prevalent themes and images of migrations are.
Do mental representations evolve? When meeting people who recently emigrated to Europe, we will ask them if the way they now see Switzerland is the same as before. Are they satisfied with their new living conditions? Would they rather leave this country and give another country a try – Canada, for example? On the one hand, we will analyse the way people talk and write about these subjects on blogs, Facebook and YouTube. On the other hand, we will interview both Tunisians who have only been living in Switzerland for a few months and Tunisians who have been living here for much longer.
2. Getting Started
Our paper will take into account documented as well as undocumented migrations. In many videos posted on YouTube and Facebook, boat people explain why they emigrated. Sometimes the people we listen to are still waiting to leave, and sometimes they have already arrived in Lampedusa and are hoping to continue farther into mainland Europe. Finally, there are videos in which people who have arrived at their final destination tell us what they now think of undocumented mobility. Do they think they made the right choice? In this paper, we will analyse the vocabulary as well as the references they use in their discourse.
At the beginning of our research, we planned to analyse audio-visual material available 1) via YouTube and 2) via blogs. Fieldwork conducted in February 2014 has shown that it is more crucial to focus on Facebook, since it seems to have a much wider audience than blogs on irregular migration.
The material analysed will be delimited by five key words in Arabic (different spellings will be taken into consideration) and French (with all possible combinations searched: k1; k1+k2; etc.). Firstly, an expert in media and information technology will help us perform computer-assisted content analysis. The second step is to add manual content and discourse analysis (of semiotics etc.) under the leading research question "How can digital humanities contribute to empowering processes through (popular) arts and music6 (namely Mizwoud7 and rap music8)?" We plan to conduct a general analysis of power relations later on, but within the limited space of the present paper, we will focus on processes of empowerment and general forms of representations of Europe.
Five kinds of video clips will be researched: a) music clips, b) music clips without video but with photos, c) news reporting, d) videos taken by harragas during their trips and e) other types of video. Our research schedule consists of four steps: 1) content analysis of the clips and comments posted by the author(s), 2) analysis of images, representations and symbols used in the videos, 3) analysis of the sound and the music, and 4) analysis of hypertext links and YouTube suggestions leading to other videos. This material will be juxtaposed to ethnography "in the real world“: participant observation in the harraga milieu, semi-guided interviews and informal talks and life histories in Tunisia and Switzerland.
The desire for a better life abroad has been emphasized after the "Arab Spring" by the development of a transnational youth culture disseminated via Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter9. Representations of success in Europe also circulate thanks to transmigrants who bring back images and symbols of a higher social status to their home villages. These images and symbols are videotaped, transformed and used in music clips uploaded onto the Internet. New music styles have also emerged as part of a global vernacular language. An example is Mizwoud, which has partly become a language of the political resistance movement in the Maghreb countries. It also belongs to the "migrating population, and with them travelled outside Algeria into France, then Europe" (Naïr 2007: 65). Hence, cultural resources10 have given rise to the development of a common artistic language of exclusion, dreams, representation of a better life and resistance11. Videos, soundscapes and images bridge the gap between the street, the sea and the virtual, empowering highways and gates through which multiple belonging processes12 take place.
1. Bally, John, Collier, Michael (2006). Introduction: Music and Migration, In: Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 167-182.
2. Nair, Parvati (2007) Voicing Risk: Migration, Transgression and Relocation in Spanish/Maroccan Rai. In: I. Biddle/V. Knights (eds) Music, National Identity and the Politics of Location: Between the Global and the Local. Aldershot: Ashgate, 65-79.
3. Salzbrunn, Monika/Sekine, Yasumasa (2011) From Community to Commonality. Multiple Belonging and Street Phenomena in the Era of Reflexive Modernization. Tokyo: Seijo University Press.
4. Graziano, Teresa (2012): The Tunisian diaspora: Between "digital riots" and Web activism. In: Dana Diminescu (Hg.): e-diaspora Atlas. Paris: Maison des Sciences de l'Homme. e-diasporas.fr (27.2.14)
5. Héas, Stéphane, Poutrain, Véronique (2003) Les méthodes d'enquête qualitative sur Internet. In: ethnographiques.org, no. 4, novembre. www.ethnographiques.org/2003/Heas,Poutrain.html (27.2.14)
6. Bally, John, Collier, Michael (2006). Introduction: Music and Migration, In: Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 167-182.
7. Stapley, Kathryn (2006): Mizwid: An Urban Music with Social Roots, in: Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 243-256.
8. Friese, Heidrun (2012) ‘Ya l’babour, ya mon amour’ – Raï-Rap und undokumentierte Mobilität’. In: Marc Dietrich/Martin Seeliger (Hg.) Deutscher Gangsta-Rap. Sozial- und kulturwissenschaftliche Beiträge zu einem Pop-Phänomen. Bielefeld: transcript, 231-85.
9. Najar, Sihem (2011) Mouvements sociaux en ligne, cyber activisme et nouvelles formes d’expressions en Méditerranée. Institut de recherche sur le Maghreb contemporain, Bulletin 6:3.
10. Salzbrunn, Monika (2011) Mobilisation des ressources culturelles et participation politique: l’apport des cultural studies à l’analyse des rapports sociaux dans un contexte festif. Migrations et Société (édité par Daniel Bertaux/Catherine Delcroix/Roland Pfefferkorn), 23, 133: 175-92.
11. Souiah, Farida (2011): Musique populaire et imaginaire migratoire en Algérie. In: Diversité, no. 164, pp. 27-33.
12. Salzbrunn, Monika/Sekine, Yasumasa (2011) From Community to Commonality. Multiple Belonging and Street Phenomena in the Era of Reflexive Modernization. Tokyo: Seijo University Press.
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Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne
July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014
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Series: ADHO (9)