Yadlin Segal, Aya (2017-05). Online Homelands: Israeli-Persian Identity between the Online and the Offline. Doctoral Dissertation. | Thesis individual record

In this dissertation, I present an ethnographic exploration of how a post-migration community--the Persian community in Israel--constructs its identity. Drawing on cultural and postcolonial theories, I discuss the ways in which the community preserves, negotiates, and resists cultural structures in the Israeli ethnic and national contexts. Through a multi-sited ethnographic exploration, I follow members of the Persian community in Israel, a marginalized ethnic minority, as they construct their national-ethnic identity. Embodying the discord between their two perceived homelands, Israelis of Iranian descent carve themselves an idealized homeland online. In it, they simultaneously resist and re-affirm social structures within and between the two nations and cultures. I focus this exploration on the use of social media, mobile-phone applications, and internet radio for post-migration identity formation. Through this study, I aim to answer a set of questions. Primarily, I attend the question - what is the role of online media platforms in the process of constructing Persian identities in Israel? Some other secondary questions studied in this dissertation are: a) How do community members communicate and articulate the ethnic and national layers of the Persian identity? b) What are the transnational and transcultural aspects of the Persian community and identity as communicated by community members? and c) What is the place of online platforms usage in challenging mainstream notions of ethnicity, nationality, homelands, and host lands?

Through this dissertation, I develop three concepts that contribute to the discussions of new media, culture, identity, migration, and ethnicity. First, I develop the idea of \"lived ethnicity,\" portraying ethnicity as an evolving and dynamic rather than a static or given identity marker. Looking at practices of \"lived ethnicity\" within different minority groups (language, collective memory, cuisine, etc.) can allow us a comparative perspective, discussing similarities and differences within specific societies in different times, or between different societies at the same time.

A second concept I coin in this dissertation is \"affirmative opposition.\" Through this concept, I stress that while some cultural oppositional calls negate negative misconceptions about an oppressed group, they can, in fact, repeat and confirm the social narrative that established the very same oppression. Thus, affirmative opposition is a cultural act that simultaneously opposes and reaffirms existing social structures. The term allows us to critically engage with cultural practices as complex systems of negotiation, looking at the possible oppositional and liberating aspects of oppressive structures, and vice versa, identifying oppressive practices embodied in oppositional acts.

Finally, contributing to new media studies, I coin the third term, \"online homeland,\" which expands previous notions of media usage in diaspora into digital realms. The online homeland is a notional space that allows communities to negotiate identities and cultures, becoming visible as a community away from the oppressing cultural gaze.

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