Migrant Belongings

Saskia Witteborn

Abstract: Transgressive Speech – Digital Surveillance and the Limits of Diasporic Communication

This talk explores socio-technological conditions shaping migration and the role of transgressive communication and surveillance technologies in diasporic formations. In particular, the discussion examines transgressive communication practices by those who desire to be mobile. Transgressive speech occurs in verbal, visual, written and digital modes of communication and intervenes into existing bodies of knowledge. Transgressive communication reveals the premises and limits of a political and cultural code, including the premises and conditions for communication itself. Based on ethnographic fieldwork, the talk highlights transgressive practices linked to place and identity and how those practices question received logics of cultural communication, social participation and mobility. The talk addresses the consequences of transgressive speech and how surveillance technologies structure the everyday life of people who seek mobility, thereby shaping transnational migration and diasporic interactions.


Saskia Witteborn is Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK). She specializes in transnational migration and technologies and has worked with migrants in the United States, Europe, and East Asia. She researches the political economy of mobility, technology and forced migration, data privacy, and how artificial intelligence structures migration. Her research has appeared in leading journals and in edited collections. She is co-editor of the SAGE Handbook of Media and Migration (2019). Read more.