Visualizing Migration

“Connecting the Data Points: Refugee Data Narratives.” Routledge Handbook of Refugee Narratives, edited by Vinh Nguyen & Evyn Lê Espiritu Gandhi. Routledge, forthcoming.

This chapter examines the narrative dimensions of refugee data. It considers what it means to tell refugee narratives through data, what kinds of refugee narratives can be facilitated or obscured by data-driven approaches, and what kinds of data storytelling approaches foster agency of refugees. The essay examines tensions between the quantitative data through which refugees are categorized for administrative management, surveillance, and control and the qualitative data that offers refugees the opportunity to construct their experiences on their own terms and to shed light on the broader, geo-political landscape that leads to forced migration.

This article explores how geo-spatial data visualizations contribute to the othering of migrants and how they can be used, in turn, to challenge the instantiation of the migrant as a “problem.” It examines how the interplay of written-linguistic, visual, and spatial modes of communication deployed in data visualizations of the so-called “European migrant crisis” position migrants as “problems” that threaten the security of Europe and how alternative approaches hold the power to resist this narrative.