Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Mass Communication and Media Arts
There are a growing number of continental African immigrants in the United States who are changing the face of Black identity and politics in the USA. Whereas this group is largely invisible to mainstream media, they are visible in online diasporic media. However, there has been very little research done on this group. In addition, scholars and policy makers are concerned that that diasporic media may erode people's sense of nationalism and their level of integration into the host society. Isolation of these communities could lead to potential conflict with mainstream society. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the following questions: (a) How do Kenyans domiciled in the United States construct their collective identity in online discourse? (b) What topics dominate the online discussions of the Kenyan diaspora in the United States? (c) How is the relationship between the host nation and the migrant community portrayed in these websites? (d) What does the online discourse reflect about the interests, concerns and positions of the diaspora on issues in the homeland? (e) How are Kenyan migrants perceived by fellow Kenyans in their homeland, within website commentary? These questions were investigated based on theories of media, diaspora, identity and globalization. The researcher selected three websites created and patronized by Kenyans living in the USA based on their internet traffic ranking. The texts were then analyzed using Wodak's discourse historical analysis (DHA). The results show that Kenyans participating in the diaspora websites studied construct various identities in their website talk. These identities ranged from essentialist and cultural identities that support the status quo, to hybrid identities that indicate various levels of integration into the host society. The results also indicate new forms of identification that differ from U.S. and Kenyan official designations of identity and represent active resistance to dominant discourses. Among these emerging identities were "new Americans", "African born Americans", and "Kenyan born Americans." Women in particular use the discourse of freedom drawn from the host culture, to express their new identities in the diaspora in ways that challenge Kenyan male cultural dominance. The relationship between migrants and the host US culture was largely positive; however, some migrants described negative experiences involving depression, difficulty in adjustment to work place cultural values, and racial discrimination. Many expressed concerns about the slow pace of immigration reforms in the USA and that the discussions overly focused on Mexican immigrants. These results have several implications. First, this study supports theories of diaspora, media and globalization with findings based on empirical research. In particular, it supports the theory that migrants construct hybrid, multiple and transitional identities in their media. The study expands our knowledge by relating the migrant online texts to the broader local and global contexts. Second, the results call attention to the need for U.S. policy makers and politicians to consider expanding the discussions of immigration reform to involve non-Mexican immigrants in the framing of immigration policy. It also points out that many of the African immigrants are elites or professionals and they can be beneficial to U.S. foreign policy initiatives and the economy. As far as Kenyan policy makers are concerned, the study suggests that the frequency and fervency of migrant ethnic identifications is a challenge to the government's construction of a common national and cultural identity. This demands change in the way the Kenyan government communicates about ethnicity and nationalism. The study recommends several areas of further study.
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