Identity, Responsibility, then Politics: The Uyghur Diaspora, Facebook and the Construction of Identity Online

Abstract

This paper presents findings from an examination of the use of online social media among the Uyghur diaspora. The Uyghur diaspora has been described as a “diaspora under construction" (Dilnur, 2012, p.2) and this paper examines how transnational Uyghur identity is negotiated through social media use, and inturn how the construction of these identities contributes to the production of an emerging "Uyghur diasporic identity". As a young diaspora, facing significant political and social challenges, the Uyghur diaspora relies heavily on internet communciation to foster identity-based connections globally. The research finds that although a coherent ‘diasporic identity’ is emerging through transnational, online communciation, tensions and contradictions are also observed. The Uyghur political struggle is severely challenged, both by disonnection and uncertainty within the diasporic community. Nevertheless, social media is providing an important forum in which Uyghur political issues are raised and national and ethnic identity is being actively negotiated and developed. The research draws upon a qualitative content analysis of Uyghur Facebook sites, analysing the contructions and negotiations of Uyghur transnational community and the emergence of a coherent diasporic identity. The study presents both an intitial ‘mapping’ of Uyghur Facebook use, based on an exhaustive content analysis and presents insights developed through a qualitative content analsysis of selected Facebook sites. Little work has been done focusing on the Uyghur diaspora and an examination of social media usage by this diaspora provides important insight into the process identity formation as it is currently taking place internationally.



Author Information
Rizwangul Nur-Muhammad, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand
Giles Dodson, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand
Evangelina Papoutsaki, Unitec Institute of Technology, New Zealand
Heather Horst, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia

Paper Information
Conference: MediAsia2013
Stream: Media Studies

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