A Key to Home: Illuminating the Role of the SIM Card in Refugee Resettlement


  • Liz Hingley




This paper considers how creative research mediated by mobile devices might contribute to upending inherited notions of refugee powerlessness and passivity in galleries and museums. A collaborative project, undertaken in 2019, explored the significance of SIM cards in forging a sense of security, identity, and belonging for Syrian refugees on a resettlement program in the U.K. This “opening up” the “body” of the smartphone in the process of creating artworks reveals the urgent need for deeper appreciation of the meaning and materiality of personal digital ecosystems (Blanke & Pybus 2020) for refugees negotiating a sense of home.

Author Biography

Liz Hingley

Hingley, Liz is a photographer, curator and anthropologist. She is currently Artist in Residence at Kings College London (Digital Humanities) and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham. Liz’s work explores the systems of belonging and belief that shape cities around the world. Her practice is inherently collaborative and seeks to create connections between disciplines, geographies and generations. Liz’s projects have received numerous awards, including the Lens Culture portrait prize, PhotoPhilanthropy Award, Prix Virginia and Getty Editorial Grant. Her work reaches international audiences through publications, workshops and exhibitions, from galleries to gardens, from hospitals to streets. The book Under Gods (Dewi Lewis publishing, 2010), supported by a scholarship from Italian research and communication institute FABRICA, became an international touring exhibition. As a Visiting Scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences Liz published End Of Lines (2013), Sacred Shanghai (Washington University Press 2019) and Shanghai Sacred (GOST books 2020). She has previously held positions within SOAS University, The Migration Research Centre, University College London, and the University of Austin, Texas (Art History). As curatorial advisor to Side Gallery, UK, Liz curated exhibitions with a focus on eco feminism, environmental justice and migration. She is a trustee of the AmberSide UNESCO world heritage collection of photography and film.


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How to Cite

Hingley, L. (2022). A Key to Home: Illuminating the Role of the SIM Card in Refugee Resettlement. Imaginations: Journal of Cross-Cultural Image Studies, 13(2), 105–121. https://doi.org/10.17742/IMAGE.TP.13.2.5