Book Review: The Media of Diaspora

คุณวุฒิ บุญฤกษ์: 26 มิ.ย. 2561 | อ่านแล้ว 1617 ครั้ง

Karim began this book by introducing reflection on media and globalization regarding diaspora, de-territorialization, space and identity. He clearly show his stance in this debate and the role of them in the media. The first eight chapters deal with the uses of longer-established media technologies while the other following six chapters are about cyber space. These paper individually are hard to find so this is a great opportunity to have it all in one book. It is a great contribution to the field of Diaspora media. These essays are quite stimulating and very informative as well. Some of them are case example of fighting for human rights, for example, Michael Santianni’s work on the use of internet by Tibetan for the independence.

This book is about the myriad economic and cultural activities of transnational groups that are neither government-nor corporate-based constitute a distinct ‘globalization-from-below’ rather than the intergovernmental organizations and giant corporations (Falk 1993; also see Brecher, Costello and Smith 2000). This kind of globalization is defined by informal and formal network across the globe. Over the years, diaspora has been growing and at the same time grow their transnational network through variety of media including mail, telephone, fax, film, audiotape, videotape, satellite television and the Internet.

Migration of diaspora in the last century or so has been influenced by several factors including colonization, trading and development in communication and transportation. The work of Saskia Sassen (1996) shows that ‘off-shoring’ of production, foreign investment into export-oriented agriculture, and the power of multinationals in the consumer markets of developing countries lead to mass migration of people from less developed countries.

Ethnic links established between communities of origin and destination, typically by transnational households or broader kinship structures, are crucial after a flow has begun, and ensure its persistence. These recruitment and ethnic links tend to operate within the broader transnational spaces created by neocolonial processes and/or economic internationalization. (Sassen 1996: 77)

Scattered voices, global vision: Indigenous peoples and the new media nation

Throughout the world, a wide range of media like radio, television, print and new media are employed by indigenous people to voice out their power. Indigenous communities are also experiencing the elements of being diaspora even though they do not share every characteristic of diaspora. Sometimes, the indigenous people are scattered over the world with a great distance from each other and sometimes far from their homelands.

Right now we are in the important moment in the history of indigenous media and their self-representation. While something is better something is not. There are abundant carelessness and misrepresentation with  fear of power of indigenous movement. For example, the main stream media like the Guardian of Britain misused the word ‘Inuit’ and ‘Eskimo’ even though they are not the same word. This shows the carelessness and respect in indigenous people. Grounded in cultural specificities and intercultural commonalities and committed to the broadest possible dissemination of information the new media will hopefully shows signs of becoming a forceful global sociopolitical change.

Diaspora, homeland and communication technologies 

In this essay, the writer discusses the media used by the diaspora of the Kurds.Even though there are thousands of non-state Kurds peoples around the world, there are also a large number scattered in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey, its neighbouring countries. Throughout the history, these countries have perpetrated genocide, linguicide, ethnocide and ethnic cleansing against their Kurdish populations. So the Kurds are present by seeking self-determination, statehood or autonomy in their nationalist movements. They used communication technologies as sites of nation and medium to create state-building activities.

These technologies allow them to define the contours of space and time.

It is natural for human beings to create human society where the human in it has space and construct social and political relationship. They have been using satellite broadcasting and other new communication technologies to exercise limited sovereignty over the Kurdish population in these countries. However, Hassanpour aimed to clarify the extraordinarily conflicted history of this Kurdish-language satellite service, vigorously attacked by the Turkish government for its supposed endorsement of terrorist activity in a particular programme, and consequently put out of business and the target of the regime’s hostility because of he ban on public use of the Kurdish language in Turkey.

Communication and diasporic Islam: A virtual ummah? 

The writer, Peter Mandaville, focuses on on a transnational community that transcends the boundaries of territory: Islam. He studied Muslims living in diaspora, particularly in the West ,who are of varied and diverse ethnic origins. The concept of Ummah bring them together as it is the shared sense of Muslim idenity. Ummah is like the world community of Islam believers. Mandeville aimed to show that diaporic media can and should be understood as much more than simply a means by which information of interest to a given community can be exchanged, or a means for communicating images of that community to wider society. Media should be understood as communication tool in which transporting identity, meaning and boundary of diasporic community are constructed, debated and reimagined.

Internet and other information technologies provide spaces and allow Muslims, who often find themselves as a marginalized or extreme minority group in many Western communities, to find others who are more ‘like them’. These connection can create a new form of imagined community, or a reimagined Islam: ‘It is imagined because the members . . . will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds [and on the screens] of each lies the image of their communion’

Globalisation and hybridity: The construction of Greekness on the Internet

 This chapter focuses on a notion of ‘Greekness’ that is constructed on the internet. The Internet connects the homeland to the numerous Greek diasporic communities around the globe forming a ‘nationally imagined community’ (Anderson 1983). This computer-mediated ‘imagined community’ is a hybrid community and it could break away from traditional, space-bound understandings of identity and community spread throughout the world. It allows space to produce and share practices of Greekness. 

‘localityof national culture is neither unified nor unitary in relation to itself, nor must it be seen simply as ‘otherin relation to what is outside or beyond it. The boundary is Janus-faced and the problem of outside/ inside must always itself be a process of hybridity, incorporating new ‘people. . . to the body politic, generating other sites of meaning and . . . producing . . . sites of political antagonism and . . . political representation. (1990b: 4)

This communication tool is known as ‘Hellas ’, the brain child of a 16-year-old at the time, the majority of its users prefer to refer to the channel as ‘Katsika’. It is a chat group created in mid 2001. The users went from 400 to ten thousands now including men, women and children.

It is a virtual community that people are there to have a great time as it is the aim. They connect through the common interest and some develop great long-lasting relationship. The features discussed in this chapter show that electronic communities are not just dehumanised formations; despite the absence of physical space and face-to-face ‘handshakes’, cyberspace is perceived and experienced as a place where people share a sense of belonging, forms of expression, meanings and emotions, language, memories and rules of conduct that can also be genuine as their real-life counterparts sometimes.

Rhodesians in hyperspace: The maintenance of a national and cultural identity

While most of immigration are forced, through political persecution, armed conflict and economic necessity, and the iconic image of present-day diasporas is of nameless refugees gathered on a boat or in asylum processing centres, the Rhodesian diaspora is nothing like this. They became diaspora after the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980. This group of diasporas are the privileged white citizens who used to live in Zimbabwe and were approximately around 150,000 in the year 1976 before the large emigration occurred.

 Rhodesian migrants are consisted of thousands of white Zimbabweans are applying for new and renewed British passports because they feel threatened by the current situation in Zimbabwe. Their presence are very strong through connection via websites and email. They try hard to preserve and develop identity while in exile. Indaba is a list of email and email subscribers for those Rhodesians who are reminiscing about the ‘good old days’.

‘I think that Indaba is about bringing us closer together so that we can      share our love for our homeland, disagree about many things, and still be a community albeit split by the four oceans’ (An Indaba subscriber) 

The role of Indaba is very active in helping to connect Rhodesians who are scattered in a lot of corners in the world. Indaba was created in May 1996, within months of the introduction of greater accessibility to the Web, and is used to maintain a Rhodesian identity through the discussion of attitudes and beliefs expressed by those Rhodesians who subscribe to it.

Conclusion: Diasporic Mediascapes as a challenges for the 21st Century

Concepts discussed here is ‘mediascapes’ and ‘ethnoscapes’ of Arjun Appadurai. It is about the new flow patterns of media and people. Also from the work of John Sinclair and Stuart Cunningham, they saw that whereas flows of people often have tended to be from . . . the periphery . . . towards the “centre”, media flows historically have travelled in the other direction’ (2001). However, indigenous media is not alway like this. They often have media flow from the periphery to the centre.

Another concept is ‘transnationalisation’ as it is the unidirectional crossing of national boundaries and should be extended to account for instances of internal colonialism and boundaries between ethnicities and regions. However, the alternative of this is fluid, constantly changing crossing from boundary to boundary and place to place – the inter nationalisation of indigenous  media audiencehood and media production, which the writer of this essay have called the New Media Nation. This word has been created to refer to this kind of state.

One more concept is about the ‘imagined community’ through computer-mediated channel as it is the hybrid community because it brings a lot of Greek cosmopolitan. It lives in the global–local nexus that characterises contemporary societies that has been through the break away from traditional, space-bound understandings of identity and community with its people scattered in the world and a common ground and shared practices are produced while a large part of Greekness is imagined in this sense. Computer-mediated national community is constructed in the same way that Benedict Anderson’s imagined community becomes a nation through the cyber technologies (Jones 1997; Mitra 1997). Greek migrants and homeland Greeks has received a new sense of fraternity and conviviality, rooted in an original home where everyone belonged, now reconstructed in cyberspace which they inhabit at the time of the ‘permanently ephemeral’.            

I found it very interesting to learn about the media of Diaspora and the way that they used approach to study how the Diaspora use media as a medium to connect with the globalization. It is very refreshing to learn that ethnographic method can be used to study the less conventional aspects of media, such as Internet, newspaper, mobile phone and many more. The essays in this book are informative and useful as it could channel a lot of energy in the people movement and their action to make things better or feels right for them.

As we see from the work of Santianni that talks about Tibetan diasporic groups’ uses of the internet to stimulate Western solidarity in support of Tibetan independence in the name of the secular values of human rights, democracy and national self-determination. He argues that it links cybercommunities around Tibetan issues. While Tony King argues that the paradox of White settlers who have fled Zimbabwe maintaining their ‘Rhodesian-ness’, a dead and de-territorialized social identity, via internet technology, Lisa Tsaliki comments on a linguistic dimension, the emergence of ‘Greenglish’ in Greek student cybercommunities outside Greece itself in response to the typical absence of the Greek alphabet from email programmes. Moreover, Ackah and Newman’s work is on Ghanaian Seventh Day Adventists which I found less interesting. That is why I did not incorporate it in this discussion. It shows that yber-communication possibilities paled in comparison to intensive face-to-face interaction for nine or so hours in church on Saturdays.

In a sense, this book is very interesting as it presents idea of how to study diaspora using media as communication and negotiating tools through the example of cases around the world. It brings a new sense of richness of this tool and the link to cultures in the world. However, there has been concrete methodology or fieldwork conduct showed in these book. Also, it can be concluded that diasporic media are creating new social reality or has true impact because the effect of the effort now might be felt by the next generation.



Karim H. Karim is Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at Carlton University in Ottawa, Canada. He previously worked as a multiculturalsm policy analyst. His book Islamic Peril: Media and Global Violence won the 2001 Robinson Prize. He has also written on diasporic cummunication, the social contexts of technology, new media policies, multiculturalism, and social development in Muslim societies. 



Cover photo credit: The Chicago Monitor

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