Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design

Committee Chair/Advisor

Cynthia Haynes

Committee Member

David Blakesley

Committee Member

Ufuk Ersoy

Committee Member

Andrea Mihalache


This dissertation interrogates the intersection of digital media, displacement, and human rights within the contemporary geopolitical landscape, with a specific focus on the MENA region. From a perspective firmly rooted rhetoric, it dissects the complex relationship between technology and displaced populations, emphasizing the role of transmedia storytelling in shaping refugee experiences and narratives and the potential for transmedia storytelling to facilitate greater insights into needs and gaps for displaced people. Central to the analysis is the paradox of digital tools both as emancipatory devices and tools of surveillance and control, which are further elucidated through case studies.

Engaging with thinkers like Stein, Arendt, Agamben, and Burke, this research delves into the rhetorical dimensions of statelessness, marginalization, and human rights, situating these concepts within the digital realm. This work shifts from the conceptual to the empirical, highlighting the firsthand experiences of refugees in camps and in transit, their digital footprints, and their negotiation of identity in virtual spaces. Attention is also given to the role of global and local agencies in mediating these experiences, including international bodies, non-profits, and Refugee-led Organizations (RLOs).

The research critically examines the broader implications of digital engagement in conflict zones, drawing from the Syrian conflict as a pertinent example. The weaponization of refugees in political discourses, both online and offline, is unpacked, and the potential of transmedia storytelling as a counter-narrative is explored. The significance of digital literacy and the need for a holistic understanding of refugee experiences in both physical and digital domains are emphasized. This dissertation calls for a reconceptualization of humanitarian aid in the digital age, advocating for more inclusive, participatory, and digitally aware interventions that prioritize the voices and rights of the displaced. By highlighting the intricate web of politics, media, and migration, this dissertation contributes to a nuanced understanding of displacement in the digital era, bridging the gap between theory, policy, and lived experiences through refugee-led transmedia.

Burgess Diss.docx (3274 kB)

Included in

Rhetoric Commons



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