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date: 25 September 2022

Ethnicity, Migration, and Digital Labor: Mobile Phone Technology Use Among Uzbek Migrantslocked

Ethnicity, Migration, and Digital Labor: Mobile Phone Technology Use Among Uzbek Migrantslocked

  • Rustamjon UrinboyevRustamjon UrinboyevSociology of Law Department, Lund University; University of Helsinki, Aleksanteri Institute; Tashkent State University of Economics

Summary

Smartphones and social media have become inextricable parts of our daily lives. The everyday lives and communication practices of migrant workers are particularly affected by these global technological developments. Such global developmental trends are especially visible within the growing body of scholarly literature on migrant transnationalism and technology, where mobile phones are examined as central drivers of migrant transnationalism. However, the bulk of the existing literature on “migration and mobile phone technology” focuses on the case studies of immigrant communities living in Western democracies (e.g., the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia). Given the sociopolitical and cultural differences between Western and post-Soviet contexts, we cannot assume that theoretical insights and tools developed in Western contexts are fully applicable in the Russian context.

The Russian context provides intriguing insights to “migration and mobile phone technology” debates given its undemocratic regime, xenophobic environment, corrupt legal system, and draconian immigration laws and policies that leave little room for migrant transnational activism and collective mobilization. Notwithstanding these structural barriers, migrants in Russia are resilient actors and have developed alternative coping strategies by producing smartphone-mediated transnational communities and identities, usually centered around migrants who hail from the same village and community. Accordingly, within the Russian context, smartphones and social media serve not merely to maintain daily transnational communication (i.e., being “here” and “there”), but, more importantly, represent tools for building a tight-knit community and are crucial to migrants’ daily survival and livelihoods in a repressive and xenophobic environment. These processes not only encompass coping strategies and communicative practices that take place within the migrant labor market (“outside world”) but also touch upon the lives of migrants serving prison sentences in Russia’s penal institutions (“inside world”). In this sense, smartphones provide a virtual platform for various risk-stretching activities and establishing social safety nets otherwise unavailable from the migrants’ home and host countries.

Subjects

  • Race, Ethnicity, and Communication

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