26 February 2015

Sandra Ponzanesi receives 2 million euros for research into migrant communities and digital media

Prof. dr. Sandra Ponzanesi
Prof. Sandra Ponzanesi

Every year numerous migrants enter Europe legally and illegally, constructing and sustaining transnational networks through online technologies. These ‘connected migrants' reconfigure notions of  identity, gender and belonging and contribute to a new understanding of Europe as a multidirectional networked society. These issues are at the heart of Prof. Sandra Ponzanesi’s project 'Digital Crossings in Europe: Gender, Diaspora and Belonging' (CONNECTINGEUROPE). She was recently awarded a prestigious and highly selective ERC Consolidator Grant of 2 million euros for this project, which will allow her to form her own team and conduct research for a five-year period (2015 - 2020).

Digital media: connecting Europe

Capturing the lives of migrants in their interactions with multiple worlds, the project explores how virtual communities of migrants, or digital diasporas, convey issues of technology, migration and globalisation. With a team of PhD students, postdoc researchers and research assistants, Ponzanesi will study:

  • how migration and digital technologies enable digital diasporas (Somali, Turkish, Romanian);
  • the impact they have on identity, gender and belonging in European urban centres;
  • how these entanglements are connected to and perceived from outside Europe;
  • how digital connections create new possibilities for cosmopolitan outlooks, rearticulating Europe’s motto of 'Unity in Diversity'.

The project focuses on migrant women (aged 18-40) who have settled in Europe’s main cities (London, Amsterdam, Rome), in dialogue with family and loved ones they have left behind (Somalia, Rumania, Turkey). Ponzanesi will investigate their digital presence on social networking sites, websites, blogs, Twitter, video-chat and smartphones.

Interdisciplinary approach

To this end, they will be using a multi-layered and cutting-edge approach that draws from the humanities, social sciences and new media studies i.e. internet studies and mobile media. The project examines, maps and critically grounds online behaviour by migrant women from a European comparative perspective. Digital networks will be studied as instances of socioeconomic, gender, ethnic and class hierarchies, as well as affective ties, where the participation of female migrants entails the possibility of challenging these hierarchies.

Sandra Ponzanesi is Professor of Gender and Postcolonial Studies at Utrecht University. She works at the Gender Graduate Programme of the Department of Media and Culture Studies. Since August 2013, she is also Head of Humanities at University College Utrecht (UCU). Her research activities combine gender analysis with postcolonial critique from a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective, ranging from comparative literature to (new) media studies and European migration studies.

ERC Consolidator Grant

ERC Consolidator Grants are designed to support researchers at the stage at which they are consolidating their own independent research team or programme. The scheme will strengthen independent and excellent new individual research teams that have been recently created.

Focus area

This research project contributes to Utrecht University's research focus area Cultures, Citizenship and Human Rights