restricted access 6: Splitting and Layering at the Interface: Mediating Indian Diasporas across Generations
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105 6 Splitting and Layering at the Interface Mediating Indian Diasporas across Generations Radhika Gajjala and Sue Ellen McComas Introduction Since early 1990s, a time that coincides with global access to the Internet in the form of the World Wide Web, there have been certain rearticulations of categories of diasporas from the South Asian region through techno-mediation. Such rearticulations are based in the naming of diasporas through the politics of a nation-state whereas others are based in the naming of diasporas through transnational linkages along the lines of struggle for a nation-state (as in the case of Tamil Eelam diasporas). In addition, these diasporas (as is the case with previous diasporas) are shaped by labor needs within various economic contexts. Digitally produced and circulated media play a significant role in such South Asian diasporas. Thus, in the case of the Indian nation-state and diasporas mediated through digital online media, “New Bollywood” invokes nostalgia for an imagined homeland for the non-resident Indian (NRI) population (Booth 2008). At the same time, a particular section of the NRI population is being encouraged to “return home” to establish transnational industry DOI: 10.5876/9781607321705.c06 106 Radhika Gajjala and Sue Ellen McComas and business in India (Mallapragada 2000). Still other sections of the population are being mobilized as part of an offshore labor force that keeps their bodies in one social context and requires their labor, services, and skills to be projected, in a seemingly disembodied manner, into other social contexts. The term “diaspora,” in turn, has been mobilized by the Indian government and industry to build particular types of transnational connections. In this context, the phrase “digital diaspora” becomes a way to build networks of transnational capital and labor. Through these articulations and rearticulations of selves, the issue of authentic “Indian” identity is continually negotiated in a productive tension between enactment and representation. Individuals and communities joining (i.e., reluctantly or voluntarily seeking membership through compliance or resisting existing formations through explicit countering of previous articulations ) such diasporic communities continue to use media and technology in the re-creation of community and identity amid host environments that sometimes oppress and sometimes liberate. Present-day new waves of globalization offer opportunities for, and require mobility of, labor and capital through digital environments and produce variations of split and post-liberal human identities. Digitally produced and circulated media play a significant role in such diasporas. Within such an overall context, this chapter performatively and descriptively engages instances of (post-)human instances/viewpoints of living online, spanning three to four generations of Internet users of Indian origin as encountered by Radhika during continuing ethnographies in these environments. Working from this background, we start by discussing how notions of nostalgia and presence shift through disembodiment and reembodiment at mediated interfaces starting with a narration of “splitting” and “multiplying” in diaspora in pre-digital times through what we refer to as communicative spaces of media. This splitting, layering, and multiplying are explored further through an examination of specific encounters with online/offline young men and women who identify as being of Indian origin. Much of the shaping of online “Indianness” happens through subconscious and affective linkages and immersion based in how Indian-identified artifacts, practices, soundbites , and images travel through digital worlds such as Second Life, Facebook, LiveJournal, blogs, YouTube video sharing, production of Machinima, and so on. These are, in turn, actualized materially and discursively online and offline as “Indian” or “not Indian” as larger community formations and groups authenticate particular behaviors, signifiers, and characteristics as “Indian.” The splitting at the interface that we locate in this chapter leads to a different way of understanding how community is simultaneously imagined, lived, and enacted as we move in and out of multiple mediated environments. This sort of imagining of community through mediated networks linked nodally is based in different mediated economic and social formations than that implied 107 Splitting and Layering at the Interface by Benedict Anderson’s (2006) notion of imagined community. It is this shift that produces the authentication of the posthuman diasporic Indian and allows the idea of “Indian digital diasporas” to emerge in the current socioeconomic and technical moment in time and space. Communicative Spaces of Diaspora In this section, Radhika draws on her experience as a “nomad” in pre-digital times (offline) to illustrate what is meant by “communicative spaces of diaspora .” The offline pre-digital communicative spaces of diaspora she refers to are based in the post...


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Subject Headings

  • Anthropology -- Philosophy.
  • Cybernetics -- Philosophy.
  • Online social networks.
  • Computers and civilization.
  • Virtual reality.
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