Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Mobile Belonging in Digital Exile: Methodological Reflection on Doing Ethnography on (Social) Media Practices

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Abstract:  Life in exile presents hardship and brings with it multiple personal and socio-political challenges and grievances. Being forced into separation from family and home society often stimulates the desire to maintain belonging and contact with families and communities. “Co-presence” and “being there” require a lot of personal effort and commitment. Communication and mediation strategies have a special significance as everyday practices in social and digital media technologies. “Mobile belonging” and staying connected across various online and offline spaces and in various social and political environments and communities can be a constant requirement in digital exile. After an introduction to relevant literature about the complexity of media communication, belonging, and migration, the article examines mobile media technologies and the central role they play in everyday exile. Following a discussion about the notion of “digital exile” and “mobile belonging,” the second part of the article will focus on a specific case study of an Iranian artist and activist living in exile in Germany. It will show how (social) media promotes activism and performance in both online and offline public spaces as practices of “mobile belonging here and there” during the Covid-19 pandemic. Thirdly, the article will turn to a methodological reflection about doing ethnographic research on digital exile and practices of mobile belonging. With a systematic description of applied methods, early developments in multi-modal ethnography will be outlined that illustrate how collaboration and co-creation promise innovative directions for doing ethnography on digital exile in the different-yet-shared times of the pandemic crisis.

Keywords:  activism; collaboration; communication; digital exile; ethnography; media; mobile belonging; multimodality



© Cathrine Bublatzky. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.