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Virtual Ethnicities

Mowbray, Miranda


Keyword(s): online communities; ethnicity

Abstract: The Internet has created a new phenomenon: rapid multi-person communication within geographically dispersed groups. This has accelerated the possibilities for social identities that are more complex or contingent than traditional geographically- based identities. In this article I discuss the Internet's potential for supporting ethnicities. There are social and institutional barriers to the realization of this potential, and I discuss examples of these. I end with two examples in which the Internet has been successfully used to support ethnicities that may have difficulties offline. The apparently frivolous Internet campaign for citizens to declare their religion as "Jedi" in censuses is a textbook case of the use of jesting liminal status to criticize a social categorization. The other example is clearly serious: the Kurdistan Web, http://www.humanrights.de/~kurdweb.

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