Ethnic Solidarity in an Internet Age?
Ethnographic studies have hitherto focused on relationships among mobile actors, groups and how inter-ethnic relations are shaped by technologies and online information exchanges. However, little research has included the effects of virtual networks in relation to intra-ethnic structures. Facebook, as a media environment, facilitates ‘doing family’ across distance within transnational families. These routines shape intergroup solidarity through geographic distance by transmitting a selection of inter-ethnic references. What causes people to avoid inter-ethnic references on their Facebook timelines that are controversial, through self-censorship? And what are the social impacts of those choices – if any? How do these transnational socialisation practices ensure solidarity among Roma across borders? These are the questions answered in this paper based on offline and online ethnography of Roma migrant communities. The paper claims that although many coping strategies were learned from other ethnic minorities in the UK, stereotyped messages transmitted a selective narrative about other ethnic groups back to the participants’ countries of origin to uphold ethnicity-based social assurances explained as instruments of ethnic solidarity. In short, the potential liberating power of virtual transnationalism was rather limited, while its potential to help reproduce social asymmetries was more apparent.
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