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Damm_Jens---The Chinese Diasporic Cyberspace: Cultural Essentialism, Nationalism and Hybrid Identities
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Damm_Jens---The Chinese Diasporic Cyberspace: Cultural Essentialism, Nationalism and Hybrid Identities


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  • 1. The Chinese Diasporic Cyberspace: Cultural Essentialism, Nationalism and Hybrid Identities Chinese Internet Research Conference, University of Hong Kong Folie
  • 2. The Internet and the Chinese diaspora
    •   Two contradictory trends
      • (Re)-emergence of strong links between new migrants in the diaspora and China in the form of a strong China-centered nationalistic diaspora + Taiwanese nationalism
      • Emergence of a global, postmodern and hybrid Chinese diaspora (“borderless diaspora”) supported by the new communication- and information technology
  • 3. A longue durée perspective
    • Historical perspective:
      • Role of the Chinese language mass media in linking up the Chinese diaspora to the “homeland(s)”
    • Recent perspective:
      • The Internet as an extension of a global network within the Chinese diaspora, offering an accelerated rate of communication and reinforcing the linkages to the homeland
      • While at the same time fostering new diversity and hybridity within the diaspora
  • 4. Chinese homelands vs. diaspora
    • “ Chinese homelands”
      • People’s Republic of China (PRC) proper, Hong Kong and Macao as part of the PRC’s “one country, two systems formula,” and Taiwan/ROC
    • Chinese cyberspaces
      • Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao: forerunners
      • PRC: the places of origin of the “old migrations” (the old qiaoxiang 僑鄉 in Guangdong, Fujian and Wenzhou) as highly developed coastal regions
      • New migrants from urban China
  • 5. Research on the Chinese diasporic cyberspace
      • Research on the relations between the Chinese diaspora and the use of the Internet only in some preliminary studies (Chiu 2005, Ong 2005, Pollard 2007, Yang 2003, Chen 2003, Siapera 2006, Parker/Song 2006, Yu 2007)
      • But: Employment of the many features of the Internet by the diaspora
        • Websites by diasporic institutions, overseas Chinese organizations, and academia
        • Various news/press organs and online news portals
        • Web 2.0: specific Internet forums, BBSs, online chats and self-produced videos and clips from TV shows and films
  • 6. From essentialist to nationalist approaches
    • “ Essentialist diasporic websites:” focus on the “essential/eternal/unchanging nature of Chinese culture” (often PRC academic and museum websites)
    • PRC/diaspora:
      • positive image of overseas Chinese
    • SEA: focus on identity
    • Example: “Tsinoys on the Web” ( /) with the hybridity of a “global village” and essentialist forms
  • 7. Chinese cyber nationalism and the diaspora
    • “ Chinese cyber nationalism:” phenomena supported and opposed on a global scale on the Internet
      • “ Chinese cyber nationalists have utilized the Internet as a communication center, organizational platform and execution channel to promote the nationalistic causes among Chinese people around the world”
    • Taiwan: Struggle for Taiwanese consciousness and identity
      • E.g. The Taiwanese Global Alliance for Democracy and Peace (
  • 8. Internet and a postmodern Chinese diaspora (I)
    • “ Fredric Jameson - the godfather of postmodernism (1991) - might be happy to learn that ethnography has entered cyberspace, the ultimate terrain of collapsed time and space”
    • The Internet and the diaspora are shaped by transnational, global and international social processes which are not identical but are intertwined and interrelated
    • Cultural identities emerge which are fluid and without fixed boundaries and which do not represent either the total negation of the past or total assimilation within the host society; cultural identities, are thus seen as “emerging ‘in transition,’
  • 9. Internet and a postmodern Chinese diaspora (II)
    • American-based academic websites on the Chinese/Asian diaspora.
    • Center for Asia-Pacific Area Studies at the Academia Sinica in Taiwan
    • Hakka websites
      • Web 2.0 (Blogs, YouTube, Forums, and BBSs)
        • interactive features
        • collaboration between various users
      • “ Hakka Rap” by Hsieh Hsuan-chi
      • PRC based “Hakka online,” the Hakka Board and the Hakka Chinese Forum at Asiawind
  • 10. Conclusion (I)
    • The period after the 1980s saw dramatic changes in the political relations between China, Taiwan and the diaspora, the acceleration of (economic) globalization processes, and the emergence of a new media, in particular, the Internet, which changed the relations between the diaspora and the homeland(s) to a hitherto unknown degree.
    • New migration waves have been accompanied by opportunities to stay in regular contact with the homeland by email; Internet phones, news and media, wherever produced, have become globally available.
  • 11. Conclusion (II)
    • Contradiction:
      • A “postnational citizenship” is said to be emerging in a globalized world
      • The Internet is, at the same time, fostering identities which, in the case of the Chinese, resemble the earlier huaqiao discourses. 
    • These trends could be described as signifiers of an increasingly fragmented globalized world, in which a global, postmodern, and hybrid diasporic “Chinese” identity has emerged (with the help of the new communication technologies), so that the new and the old “Chinese diaspora” is now constantly building links with the various “Chinese homelands.”