RSC Trinity Term Public Seminar Series | Associate Professor Saskia Witteborn (Chinese University of Hong Kong), ‘Migration and the Politics of Transgression: A Historical Perspective’

The talk is based on the recently published monograph ‘Unruly Speech: Displacement and the Politics of Transgression’ and introduces the audience to the history of Uyghur displacement through a communication and media lens. Starting with the notion of transgressive speech as a sociopolitical code, cultural order, and technological configuration, the talk illustrates the intersections between the history of the northwestern border region in China, Uyghur migration, and Uyghur diasporic advocacy. The talk then focuses on the Uyghur diaspora in the United States and in Germany to show how communication practices and their premises travel and are strategically adapted for diasporic purposes, including the discourse on human rights. The discussion highlights how communication practices can be traced across time and space to identify their historical, institutional, and technological moorings as well as emerging interaction spaces for advocacy on a global scale. Overall, the longitudinal, multi-sited research in China, the United States, and Germany provides the basis for a conversation about fieldwork in transnational settings and the conditions that enable and control transgressive practices in contexts of displacement.
Saskia Witteborn is Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She specializes in critical technology studies and migration and has worked with migrants in the United States, Europe, and East Asia. She researches the geopolitics of identity, migrants’ digital technology practices, the datafication of migration, and the link between mobilities and immersive realities. Saskia was a visiting scholar at Free University of Berlin, at the Berlin Institute for Migration and Integration Research at Humboldt University, Télécom Paris, and the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is author of Unruly Speech: Displacement and the Politics of Transgression (Stanford University Press, 2023), co-editor of The SAGE Handbook of Media and Migration (Sage, 2020), and co-author of Together: Communicating Interpersonally. A Social Construction Approach (Oxford University Press, 6th ed., 2005).