Internet: A Creative Space for Diasporan Identities to Flourish

I proudly declare that You Tube helped me find myself.

As a teen, I spent many late nights on the Internet watching performance poetry by Latin@s, searching for merengue videos that were deemed Dominican classics, and watching comedy channels dedicated to recreating the dynamics of my culture. I had visited my parents’ home country enough to feel as though it were my own, but I understood I was a hyphenated Dominican. I was dedicated to doing the homework mostly to share in my uncle’s enthusiasm for the music and jokes because he was my favorite person and I was much more than the “American” one of the family.

I became fascinated with the ways people used the internet space to creatively express the cultural pride and dilemma as a “hyphen.” These were the people who understood me most and they had a lot of fun with it.  I decided I would be noted as a writer in this phenomenon and I joined a creative network online where I posted poems and short stories of how I imagined my mother’s life on the island and compared it to my life here. I shaped my identity very much around this hyphen through this medium and I continue to embrace understanding myself as such in adulthood.

Reading Jennifer M. Brinkerhoff’s Chapter “Diasporas, Identity, and Information Technology,” was an exciting experience, as it encompassed every aspect necessary to understand the formation of diasporan identities. From the beginning she is clear about the complexity of identifying one’s self with diasporic movement, as it has become a term used loosely. To be clear, my family  voluntarily moved to the U.S. without knowledge of the language/culture and with hopes of returning to the Dominican Republic for retirement. Retaining our “real” culture was very important, but I wanted to do so in a way that was most conducive to understanding myself as an American person. Brinkerhoff explains the internet as a space that enables this conscious-ridden identity to exist and be celebrated. She writes,

“Within diaspora communities, members continuously negotiate their hybrid identities through storytelling, promoting consensus on shared understandings, and sense making. With respect to their identity and associated behaviors, they test the boundaries of shared identity, providing affirmation and correction as needed to sustain a collective bond…Particularly among youth, the Internet may support the self-conscious selection of cultural artifacts. These may include experimentation with and adoption of liberal values” (Brinkerhoff, 52 – 53).

I consider Brinkerhoff’s piece incredibly important to understanding the modern day outcome of Diaspora. There are now popular social media pages  dedicated to promoting and maintaining specific Caribbean cultures by creatively documenting the cultural markers for all to interact with. I went on to the Facebook page, I am a Jamaican, as the assertive nature of the name stood out to me. I immediately added the 2014 Soca playlist and watched the comedic video “A Jamaican Home in Farrin”. Most of the comments were from people who identified as Jamaican and it was enjoyable to witness them feel at home in this space regardless of where they resided. They laughed at jokes and wrote in dialect. This page was created as a celebration of cultural identity and is filled with positive posts that allow people to comfortably feel proud of where they come from and where they are going. These spaces serve as reminders that culture travels with you through multiple places and generations.

Watch Poetry Performance: Staceyann Chin – Jamaican in New York

5 comments

  1. Maribi, I agree, Brinkerhoff’s chapter definitely helped me gain a better understanding of the formation of diasporan identities. People usually don’t think about the difficulties that immigrants face after leaving their homeland. I think social media networks definitely allow immigrants to remain connected to their homeland, while also promoting change. This is one of the few positive things that social media networks have to offer, the ability help immigrants stay connected to the homeland.

  2. Dear Dwight, I wish I could like your comment! Thank you for introducing us to this FB page to compare.

  3. In reading this blog entry, I couldn’t help but connect the things people in the Diasporic communities today do to “recreate the dynamics of their culture” to that which our forefathers did many years ago when they were spread across the colonies to create this Diaspora we know. The YouTube-ing, Facebook-ing, blogging on special interest sites can be likened to the storytelling under the Salmon tree, the gathering late at night in a secluded space to sing and dance and teaching young ones old sayings with secret meanings. All this was done in an effort to keep the culture alive and to pass on the cultural traditions.

    On another note, I have to agree with Lusely here. The Facebook page seems to have a spirit of celebration and jubilation. I think that they are deliberately shying away from the political, socio-economic and so on.

  4. Although i can easily agree with Dwight, I think that the optimistic message of “I am a Jamaican” allows the diaspora to put forth the image they prefer. It gives these people the power to look at positive connotations instead of focusing on the negative giving them the power to change the conversation. It also allows them to assert their identity positively and proactively. There is a time and place for all conversations, I just feel that maybe this FB page shies away from them deliberately.

  5. I do find the comments inspirational as well but I feel within this specific forum the voices that your are quiet limited. I think apart of the maintenance of a diaspora is having the hard conversations about your culture. This forum seems to be lacking in any concrete conversations on politics, poverty, human rights, etc.
    Check out this Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jamaica.AHS

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