Mobilizing Diasporas: Understanding Transnational Relief Efforts in the Age of Social Media

AbstractSocial media have reconfigured the international relief landscape by creating discursive spaces for grassroots activism. In this study, I use semantic networks to systematically investigate the role of social media in mobilizing a new actor – diasporas – for providing humanitarian aid. I visualize the structure of conversations among Ukrainian diaspora communities to illuminate the social contexts for two sets of behaviors: political advocacy, the traditional pathway for diaspora engagement with their country of origin; and humanitarian relief, an emergent collective behavior in which grassroots actors supply aid to their homeland directly, bypassing institutional brokers such as international nonprofit organizations. Leveraging data from online discussions within ten diaspora communities on Facebook, I demonstrate how social media facilitate diasporic activism by reinforcing horizontal ties between benefactors and affected communities. This comparative case study contributes to a deeper understanding of diasporic involvement in relief in the age of social media.

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