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Mediating the family imaginary: young people negotiating absence in transnational refugee families

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Global Networks

Published online on


Although transnational families regularly experience extended periods of physical separation and dispersal, the emergence of new media means that most are now practised at sustaining forms of ‘connected presence’ and ‘mediated co‐presence’ across time and space. Thus, migration no longer disrupts all family networks, for many continue to function as sites of support across national borders. However, refugee transnational families are a clear exception, with both physical and mediated contact between kin living in refugee camps or in transit remaining limited, if not impossible. Nevertheless, it is arguable that digital communication technologies have transformed even this experience of family dispersal. In this article, we demonstrate how young people from refugee backgrounds living in Melbourne respond to the absence of their family members by using digital media to construct a family imaginary that serves to sustain a sense of familyhood in contexts of ongoing separation.