Virtual Ethnicity: Representation and Boundary Formation on the Internet

By Sandra Lopez-Rocha.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In this paper I address the virtual representation of Chileans living in England, the dynamics of the group’s online interconnectivity and the creation of boundaries based on people’s ethnicity. The discussion presented in this paper supports the idea that there are new and emergent forms of networks and communications that allow people to reconnect and strengthen relationships and furthermore facilitate the reassertion of their individuality and ethnic identity. It is within each individual to find a way to express their individualism, but this often brings them around to the core of their ethnicity, to the community where they belong, for the more individual we become, the more we long for community. Consequently, in the virtual space there is a continuous negotiation of individuality and group identification that is affected by a number of ethnic attributes. The findings presented describe a variety of ways through which Chileans in England have managed to represent themselves online, addressing their need to express their identity, thoughts, and inclinations. In many cases self-representations were used to express individuality, but also helped to strengthen their attachment to a certain group, albeit while creating boundaries reinforcing group identification.

Keywords: Virtual Ethnicity, Migrants’ Identity and Belonging, Ethnic Community, Internet Communication, Nethnography

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp.81-90. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 639.000KB).

Dr. Sandra Lopez-Rocha

Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bristol, Bristol, Avon, UK

As a socio-cultural anthropologist, researcher, and language instructor Dr. Sandra López-Rocha’s training and experience includes interdisciplinary studies, ethnographic research and instructional systems design, derived from her first PhD work at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. Her ethnographic work over the years involved the study of Egyptian, American, Latin American (Chilean and El Salvadorians in particular), and English cultures. Her research focus has been centered on diasporic communities (i.e., movement, adaptation, identity, and community making) and cross-cultural communication (nonverbal communication, culture shock and acculturation, and linguistic change). Further research interests include urban anthropology, linguistic and psychological anthropology, as well as nethnography/anthropology of the cyberspace. Dr. López-Rocha completed her second PhD at the University of Bristol in the area of social anthropology.

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