Accepted paper:

Mobilising diasporic narratives. Social media use by Malian-diasporic agents and its potential for contesting socio-political exclusion


Syntia Hasenöhrl (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

My contribution explores potentials for political mobilisation that emerge from the entangle-ment of physical and mediated mobilities in the formation of subjects. Focussing on construc-tions of belonging, I trace discursive practices Malian-diasporic agents perform through their social media use.

Paper long abstract:

In his influential book 'Mobilities', John Urry emphasises that not just physical movement of people and goods shape our contemporary societies, but also virtual, imaginative and communicational mobilities (Urry, 2007). In my contribution, I ask which potentials for political mobilisation emerge from these entangled mobilities when they are performed in everyday social media use - with political mobilisation understood as the formation of subjects through constructions of belonging. I focus on a Malian-diasporic context since mobility counts as a major demographic phenomenon in Malian society (Bocquier & Diarra, 1999). Today, estimations range from 10 to more than 30 percent of its population living abroad (Whitehouse, 2012), forming an important diasporic network whose members sustain connections through digital communication (see e.g. Damome, 2011; Galtier, 2011). In addition, agents in and from Mali experience multiple exclusions resulting from their positioning in the Global South (Scholz, 2005). Therefore, it is especially interesting to see if and how they use social media to articulate political subject positions and, thereby, challenge power inequalities. Using the concept of belonging by Nira Yuval-Davis (2006), I will illustrate how users visiting the Facebook page of a Malian-diasporic news portal perform diverse discursive practices: Their profile information and their engagement with different topics unveil how they construct their digital social positions - with a special focus on their diverse locations and mobilities - as well as their identity narratives and value systems. My aim is to detect moments of contestation and resistance to hegemonic power inequalities that emerge in these constructions.

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