Diasporic identity under construction: The Ugyhur diaspora and social media.

TitleDiasporic identity under construction: The Ugyhur diaspora and social media.
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Dodson, G. R., R. Nuermaimaiti, E. Papoutsaki, and H. Horst
Affiliation (1st Author)Unitec Institute of Technology, Auckland
Section or WGDiaspora and Media Working Group
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeDIAW4a
Slot Code (Keyword)DIAW4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session Title Social Media/ Cyberspace
Submission ID4590

This paper presents preliminary findings of an examination into the use of online social media among the Uyghur diaspora. The paper demonstrates how online identities are constructed through social media use and inturn how the construction of these identities contributes to the production of an emerging "Uyghur diasporic identity". Diasporic identity is understood as on-going process of self-understanding and production; it does not refer to one, single identity. Instead it seeks to make sense of the different forms of identity construction among Uyghur diaspora. Adopting a constructionist approach this paper accepts identity as the production of social interactions (here, online), which are never complete, always in process, and always constituted through representation. The Uyghur diaspora has been described as a “diaspora under construction" (Dilnur 2012, p.2). This paper examines how this identity construction is currently taking place online. The research presented in this paper combines a content analysis of key Facebook sites and semi-structured interviews with Uyghur diaspora scholars. Facebook sites have been chosen as this social network constitutes a space of a global, daily online interactions much used by members of the Uyghur diaspora; Facebook is the lively heart of the Uyghur diaspora members’ transnational communication. The study presents an analysis of data collection over a three- month period on the Facebook wall discussion archives. The paper discusses the use of new communication platforms by the Uyghur diaspora and seeks to understand the extent of identity construction taking place online. To what extent are SNSs, like Facebook utilized for online communication? Is Facebook site for the development of a collective Uyghur diaspora identity? This paper highlights some key aspects of the use of Facebook by Uyghur diaspora in their identity construction. Findings indicate that the Uyghur diaspora use and consume Facebook for a wide variety of interests. However, the examination of discussion on Facebook sites indicates online Uyghur identity is actively being explored and produced through social media use. The findings are in line with existing literature about diaspora and media (Karim 1998; Tsagarousianou 2004), that the (re-)construction of identities takes place through everyday interactions, such as within social media communciation. In the light of these findings, the Uyghur diaspora Facebook walls stand out as one of the key arenas where diaspora identities are shaped and articulated. The research findings provide valuable insight into the character of the Uyghur diaspora. The research is timely as little work focusing on the Uyghur diaspora or examining social media usage by this diaspora has been donethe research provides insight into the process identity formation as it is currently taking place internationally. The research also provides fundamental understanding about internet usage for Uyghur diaspora organizations, institutions, and individuals. The research is meaningfully engaged in providing timely insight into these processes and seeks to make a substantial contribution to understanding Uyghur identity construction. This work also holds value for the field of Central-Asian studies and provides a contemporary empirical case study to emergent study of social network sites and diaspora studies.

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