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Thesis Defence: “Without Internet, We Have No Existence”: Rohingya Refugee Representation on Social Media

February 17, 2023 at 9:00 am - 1:00 pm

Shorif Sonia, supervised by Dr. Helen Yanacopulos, will defend their thesis titled “Without Internet, We Have No Existence”: Rohingya Refugee Representation on Social Media, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies.

An abstract for Sonia’s thesis is included below.

Defences are open to all members of the campus community as well as the general public.

To access a zoom link to attend this defence please contact the supervisor at helen.yanacopulos@ubc.ca.


In the media, migrants, and refugee literature, representation of the refugees is one of the most recurring and contested issues. From the news media to digital or social media platforms to humanitarian communications, created a dualism of refugee representation, ‘threats’ vs. ‘victims.’ The humanitarian agencies have been widely criticized for the dehumanized representation of refugees as ‘weak,’ ‘victims,’, and ‘in need of charity for fundraising. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, almost 65 million forcibly displaced populations rarely have access to connectivity to raise their opinions. This research investigates the problem of representation about access to connectivity and the internet for the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. I ask, how are Rohingya refugees represented on social media? This thesis argues that the humanitarian agencies and the refugees are creating a convergent portrayal of refugee ‘agency’ shifting from the traditional victim vs. threats representation. The thesis further strengthens the understanding of refugee self-representation, considering technological mediation. Analysis of 32 weeks of social media data of 4 humanitarian agencies and 10 Rohingya refugees and their interviews explore beyond the traditional ‘threats’ vs. ‘victims’ refugee representation. Through the qualitative data analysis, this research sheds light on how such a negative narrative has changed and leading humanitarian agencies working in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, for the Rohingya refugee response are creating an assertive representation of the refugees by showing them as ‘resilient,’ ‘active,’ ‘self-reliant’ and ‘peaceful’; reflecting how the Rohingya refugees represent themselves. As a policy recommendation, I highlight the importance of connectivity and the internet for refugees to express themselves.


February 17, 2023
9:00 am - 1:00 pm

Additional Info

Registration/RSVP Required
Yes (see event description)
Event Type
Thesis Defence
Arts and Humanities, Culture and Diversity, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Global
Alumni, Community, Faculty, Staff, Families, Partners and Industry, Students, Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Associates