Reticent Digital Diasporas in Times of Crisis: The Shifting Emotion Work of the Burundian Diaspora
Lidewyde Huberta Berckmoes
Summary, in English
Burundi has been through several cycles of violence and relative peace over the past decades, resulting in a sizable diaspora in the region and in Europe and North America. This diaspora has been engaged in long-distance politics, aided by the development of ICT. Based on long term fieldwork in the diaspora for two decades, we explore how the relations between the digital diasporas and the conflicts have evolved over time, as the political field and the room for debate has morphed inside the country with the cycles of violence. Our main argument is that conflict in the homeland creates a massive flow of information across various digital platforms – twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, text messaging – and that members of the diaspora eagerly take part in sharing this information. Meanwhile, they also feel an emotional ‘cost’ of being ‘hailed’ by the images and information that they are confronted with on a daily basis, and the emotional costs of engaging or not are related to kinship. People seek information in order to know about the situation of their loved ones while they also shun this information either in order to protect their kin from the emotional stress or in order to protect themselves from the feeling of helplessness that information might produce.