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Transnational crisis translation: social media and forced migration

Jay Marlowe (Department of Social Work, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 15 August 2019

Issue publication date: 11 March 2020




The purpose of this paper is to outline how refugees’ transnational networks and online relationships facilitated through social media provide access to timely and trusted translated information in disaster settings.


The study is a digital ethnography of resettled refugees’ practices of transnational care and support through social media that took place over 12 months. It involved conducting 50 semi-structured interviews and collecting 472 online social media diaries with 15 participants. Data analysis was conducted through constructivist grounded theory.


Transnational networks are increasingly part of refugees’ everyday lives that illustrate how social media platforms can provide forms of transnational care and access to trusted translated communications during times of crisis. The paper discusses the possibilities and cautions of such support.

Research limitations/implications

The small number of participants limits the ability to make generalised claims about refugees and transnational possibilities for reducing disaster risk. However, the reality that social media effectively provide a bridge between “here” and “there” signals the importance of incorporating these considerations as a form of transnational disaster risk reduction.

Practical implications

The project highlights from policy and practice standpoints, how transnational networks and social media can be used to improve disaster communications and translation. This focus is achieved through examining the usability, accessibility and affordability of digital communication technologies for forced migrants.


Few studies focus on refugees and disaster risk reduction. This is particularly the case as it relates to the roles of transnational networks, which have increasing everyday interactions in countries that provide refugee resettlement programmes.



This research was supported by the Royal Society New Zealand under a Marsden Fast Start grant, ID No. 3708459. The author would like to thank Katharine Haddock for her assistance in sourcing relevant literature for this paper.


Marlowe, J. (2020), "Transnational crisis translation: social media and forced migration", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 200-213.



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