Accepted Paper:

Cyber publics as 'floating nations': The Kenyan diaspora and the digital media  

Author:

George Ogola (University of Central Lancashire)

Paper long abstract:

Amongst the largest growing diasporas in the world has been the African diaspora(s). Although the movement of Africans from Africa to Western metropolises has a long history, it has particularly intensified in the postcolonial milieu as the continent gets integrated into the dynamics of the globalisation processes. Accelerating this movement has been state failure in the continent resulting in social, economic and political instability, inevitably inducing flight. Like other African countries, Kenya has a huge and growing diasporic community in the West, primary based in the United States and Europe. This diaspora now reportedly contributes over US$ 2 billion to Kenya annually, becoming the largest single source of external capital into the country. This unremitting attachment to the ‘mother’ country raises fundamental questions around identity and how this diaspora defines itself in relation to Kenya as home, homeland and nation-state. This paper seeks to examine this relationship. The paper looks at how the diasporic experience constructs the Kenyan diasporic publics’ identities online. The paper argues that this digital space is unique, its distinctiveness located precisely in its ability to function as an enabling technology allowing for cross-border interaction but also as a political and cultural space affirming but also contesting normative representations of identity. But, while allowing for the construction of (new) forms of identity both of self and community, such constructions, the paper argues, are not necessarily ahistorical. Identities may be 'fragile subjectivities' but they are also necessarily experiential and indeed spatially locatable.

Panel C7
Kenya