Coping with the ‘double bind’ through digital media practices: Pandemic citizenship of Chinese international students

Presenters:
Jian Xu and Xinyu (Andy) Zhao
Authors and Affiliations:
Jian Xu, Deakin University
Xinyu Zhao, Deakin University


Chinese international students are caught up in a ‘double bind’ (Ma & Miller, 2020) situation in the COVID-19 due to the possible racial discrimination, their financial difficulty and lack of social support in the host countries as well as the strict travel ban of foreign flights and stigmatisation of student returnees in China. To cope with the uncertainty, anxiety, fear and helplessness caused by the ‘double bind’, digital media are being widely utilised by Chinese international students who are stuck overseas, back to China and on the way home for self-care and self-resilience (e.g. information gathering, self-presentation, collaborative problem-solving and mutual-aid network). The article examines popular digital media practices used by the Chinese international students in the pandemic for the purpose of cultivating self-care and self-resilience. By conducting in-depth interviews with this student cohort and analysing the content of their popular digital media practices (e.g. social media posts and vlogging content), we ask why, what and how digital media are used by them and has caused what effect on them to make sense of and cope with the pandemic. We tentatively argue that digital media have become effective means for the self-care and self-resilience of Chinese international students in times of crisis. Their digital media practices not only demonstrate their digital citizenship but also their ‘neoliberal subjectivity’ of being transnationally (im)mobile subjects in the precarious COVID-19 situation.

About Authors

Jian Xu

Affiliation/s: Deakin University
Email: j.xu@deakin.edu.au

Dr Jian Xu is a Lecturer in Communication in the School of Communication and Creative Arts and a member of ADI, Deakin University. He is co-convenor of the Asian Media and Cultural Studies Network (AMCS). He researches Chinese media and communication with a particular interest in the sociology and politics of digital media. He was a Research Fellow in Media at Deakin University, an Endeavour Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney and a joint Visiting Research Fellow in the Centre for Global Communication Studies and the Centre for the Study of Contemporary China, University of Pennsylvania. He obtained his PhD in Media and Communication from the University of New South Wales.

Xinyu (Andy) Zhao

Affiliation/s: Deakin University
Email: xinyu.zhao@deakin.edu.au

Dr Xinyu (Andy) Zhao is now teaching and researching at Deakin University and the University of Melbourne. He completed his PhD at Deakin University in 2020 and is particularly interested in the intersections of transnational mobility, digital technologies and young people. Zhao’s doctoral project was a digital ethnographic study of Chinese international students’ everyday use of social media in Australia. His work has appeared in New Media & Society, Media International Australia and Transitions: Journal of Transient Migration. He is now a research assistant in the Youth Mobilities, Aspirations and Pathways (YMAP) Australian Research Council Discovery Project at Deakin University and the ‘Engaging older Chinese Australians with digital media during Covid19 lockdown’ project at the University of Melbourne.

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