Date of Award

1-1-2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Speech Communication

First Advisor

Bardhan,Nilanjana

Abstract

This dissertation examines queer cultural identity formations in the context of globalization and postcoloniality by focusing on experiences and interactions in cyberspace. Broadly, the goal of this project is to examine how queer diasporic individuals (re)create cultural identity through lived and mediated realities, and how they use queer oriented social network sites for this purpose. In this dissertation, I also theorize the roles of globalization, postcolonial migration, and visual and cyber culture in the creation of hybrid cultural identities. The Internet and other computer- mediated communication (CMC) forms and technologies have provided a vast amount of possibilities for diasporic individuals to express and represent themselves, to connect to their home-nations and the citizens of these home nation-states, and create virtual communities among various diasporas for economic and emotional support. This study used cyber ethnography as a method to examine the presence of queer diasporic bodies on social network sites (Gay.com, Gaydar, and CamFrog) and their usage of cyber technologies. Cyber ethnography is concerned with communication in cyberspace and on the Internet. By using semi-structured interviews, webblog analysis, web page analysis, chat room analysis, Instant Message analysis, and webcam and audio webcam-based chat room analysis, I interacted with diasporic queer bodies in cyberspace-based communities and online environments between May and July 2009. Through this cyber fieldwork, I was able to gain extensive insights into their cultural identity formation processes and the reasons for their usage of cyberspace and new media technologies. This data gleaned from this study suggests that diasporic queer bodies often use social network sites and computer technologies to connect with others, to meet new people, and also to carve out a space to express aspects of their in-between fluid identities. They also use these sites to establish connections with other gay men in their diasporic communities. In addition, the findings suggest that diasporic queer bodies often use cyberspace and computer technologies to create homes-away-from-home and to communicate with gay men in their home countries. Based on these findings, I further theorize and extended the traditional meaning of home, the notion of desire, self presentation, and beauty and body image in the online-offline lives on diasporic queer bodies in the context of globalization. In this dissertation, I tried to capture the cultural, technological, and societal forces that influence identity formations of diasporic bodies. While I discuss these forces, I also attempted to illustrate dialectical tensions that shape the cultural identity formation process. Even though I celebrate the fluidity of cultural identity, in this document, I also recognize that segments of our identities are socially constructed and thus `fixed' in this sense. I also attempted to the illustrate the tension between the shapeshifting nature of diasporic queer identities and the diasporic queer experiences that are dictated and shaped by the rigid identity categories that are set and exercised by western societies, such as ethnicity, race, gender, and nationality. Clearly, these societal constructs often structures the diasporic experiences, even though diasporic queer bodies often challenge the power of these constructs.

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