Migration Memes and Social Gaze: An Analysis of Facebook Memes on the Rohingya Community in Bangladesh

DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.13185/STJGS2021.09206
Published Date: Dec 30, 2021 | Accepted Date: Aug 9, 2021 | Submitted Date: Apr 16, 2021

Abstract

Despite Bangladesh’s alarming population density and crippling economy, the state has homed over 1.1 million Rohingyas in recent years. The frustrations of the netizens over the worsening living conditions and rising crime rates have culminated in memes. Internet memes are effective and humorous tools to express one’s views while evading the clutches of 24/7 active surveillance and the social gaze. In Bangladesh, Facebook is the most popular social media platform where netizens have shared, reshared, and indulged in their reactions on several memes regarding the Rohingyas and their migration to Bangladesh. This paper investigates and interprets the possible reasons behind the attitudes or sentiments that have led to the creation of these memes. Through Bakhtinian polyphony and heteroglossia, this paper uses an adapted model of Fairclough’s three-dimensional conception of discourse analysis to analyze select Bangladeshi memes on the Rohingya migration that surfaced on Facebook in response to the Rohingya exodus of 2017–2018. Through critical content analysis, this paper uses a heteroglossic scope to analyze their intended messages and how these can dodge the panopticon gaze of constructed social obligations. This analysis offers distinct grassroots applications of memes and an overview of the Bangladeshi netizens’ depictions of the Rohingya community.

Keywords

heteroglossia, meme, migration, Rohingya crisis, social media

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