Open Access Journal

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Bidi Bidi Creativity: The Liminality of Digital Inclusion for Refugees in Ugandan Higher Education

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Abstract:  Educational inclusion for refugees is increasingly being framed through digital technologies. This is problematically characterised at the macro level by global and national narratives that portray the digital as an external and universal force capable of radical transformation and inclusion, and at the micro level with more nuanced accounts that acknowledge an already‐present political economy of technology of everyday practices of (non)adoption and use. Particularly for refugees, inclusion is further characterised by a persistent liminality with its attendant experiences of transition and tentativeness. Digital inclusion becomes an ongoing act of managing these liminal experiences, noting where barriers exist that stall efforts at further assimilation, and developing practices or workarounds that attempt to move refugees away from the margins of social inclusion. Such management is inherently precarious, and one made even more precarious in digital spaces, where inclusion is increasingly intertwined with systems of control and surveillance. To illustrate this, this article presents findings from a project exploring educational participation by refugee students in Ugandan universities. It notes the subtle tensions that emerge from the expectations of participation in university life, and Ugandan life more broadly, amidst digital structures and narratives that complicate inclusion. In this article, we argue that more nuanced conceptualisations of digital inclusion, ones rooted in liminal experiences, are needed to anchor digital technologies in refugee communities.

Keywords:  digital inclusion; higher education; liminality; mobile technology; refugees; Uganda

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v11i3.6686


© Michael Gallagher, Rovincer Najjuma, Rebecca Nambi. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.