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Digital displacement: the spatialities of contentious politics in China’s digital territory

Morris, Carwyn (2022) Digital displacement: the spatialities of contentious politics in China’s digital territory. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 47 (4). 1075 - 1089. ISSN 0020-2754

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Identification Number: 10.1111/tran.12559


This paper conceptualises digital displacement as both a way through which the digital, dynamic and fragile spatialities of contentious politics can be examined and as a geographic critique of censorship. Digital displacement, understood here as the act of removing users from the digital places and spaces they wish to remain in and use, often through the act of deletion, is conceptualised through the digital displacement of two contentious political groups that attempted to contest the forced eviction of migrants from Beijing in 2017; hashtag focused #BeijingSurgery# and instant messaging group using BeijingTogether. Explored through participant observation, interviews and playful digital exploration, this paper examines the spatialities that made multiple digital displacements possible and the activist spatialities that emerged during and post-displacement. In exploring this, I develop a flexible vocabulary around digital place, space, scale, territory and mobility to analyse the practices of digital displacement, to understand the socio-spatial positionality of activists involved in digitally centred contentious politics and to contextualise their territorial positionality within Chinese digital territory and global digital territories. Through the examination of #BeijingSurgery# and BeijingTogether, the article highlights: the importance of digital territorial positionality for both activists and the digital places and spaces used for contentious politics; that within systems of digital spatial governance, deletion and displacement can be effective strategies of repressive governance with wide-ranging displacement effects; and that while digital displacement is not necessarily the ending point of contentious politics, the re-production of activist spatialities is more difficult when the authority being protested against governs the digital territory used for protest.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author.
Divisions: Geography & Environment
Subjects: J Political Science > JV Colonies and colonization. Emigration and immigration. International migration
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2022 15:45
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2024 00:00

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