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  • 1. Minorities and online political mobilization: Investigating ‘acts of citizenship’ Cheryll Ruth R. Soriano1 Paper for the Pre-conference on New Media and Citizenship in Asia: Social Media, Politics, and Community-Building International Communication Association Preconference Phoenix, Arizona, USA, May 24, 2012 Current developments in citizenship theory offer an alternative understanding ofcitizenship as performative, or as performances of rituals and articulations that are meaningful inthemselves, and that should be interrogated for what they achieve and their value for the speakers(Isin & Nielsen, 2008; van Zoonen, et.al, 2010). Such a concept of citizenship is relevant forminorities with ambivalent relationships with the State and social majority, and who are nowengaging online media to reach out to actors and supporters beyond the demarcated polity toachieve political goals. In order to challenge political, economic, and social structures and expressdemands for the transformation of such structures, minorities’ online performances weave togetherspaces of culture with broader agendas of transformative politics. These productions bypasstraditional distribution systems and can serve as a promising vector for minority groups as theyinsert their own stories and struggles into national narratives. This possibility for self-productionof political expression is particularly salient for minority groups who have long suffered as objectsof others’ image-making and issue-framing practices. However, techno-utopian promises thatonline media will empower the ‘voiceless’ have also been challenged as issues of “strategicessentialism”, “objectification”, commercialism, and state controls shed doubt on whether onlinemedia can truly be localized and emancipatory for minorities (Landzelius, 2006; Ginsburg, et.al.,2002). Yet, as minorities are often understood as diaspora communities in the West and given theunderstudied nature of minorities from developing societies as online activists, the question of                                                                                                                1 Cheryll Soriano is a Doctoral Candidate at the Communications and New Media of the National University of Singapore. Comments arewelcome and may be sent to cheryllsoriano@nus.edu.sg.   1  
  • 2. whether new media can be valuable in understanding minorities’ enactment of citizenship remainsdevoid of actual empirics of social and political mediation. This paper explores strategies of online political mobilization by minorities fromdeveloping Asia who are considered as citizens of the nation-state but are ‘othered’ in particularways. Through a multiple-case study of minority groups from the Philippines: an indigenoussocial movement organization, a Muslim minority revolutionary group, and a political party oflesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, the paper investigates what constitutes the strategicappropriation of technology and performance of “acts of citizenship” given varied contexts ofonline engagement and conditions of minoritization. The paper seeks to surface newunderstandings of political formations, citizenship engagement and political communicationstrategies in the context of minorities, as enabled and constrained by the features of online media.1. Minorities and self-mediation as performance of citizenship1.1 Citizenship as performance Citizenship, while originally understood as a legal status of membership in the nation-state(i.e. citizenship as common rights), has become increasingly defined in terms of the “practice ofmaking citizens—social, political, cultural, and symbolic” (Isin and Nielsen 2008, p. 17).Differentiated from “formal citizenship”, which was deeply connected to ideas of nationalintegration (Kymlicka, 2002, p. 329), the concept of “substantive citizenship” has given rise to theanalysis of subjects as they become claimants of citizenship, even under unexpected conditions(Benhabib, 2004; Isin, 2002). This perspective argues that citizenship is not merely state-given,but cultivated, learned, and fought for. Certain momentous acts such as civil rights and feministmovements manifest the summoning of courage and indignation of groups of citizens to breakwith structures. These instances provide an opportunity for the reconfiguration of these actors’positions as citizens as well as a disruption and transformation of structures. Unlike the   2  
  • 3. conceptualization of citizenship as rights, acts of citizenship are particularly suited for minoritieswho experience difficulty in claiming their rights as “equal citizens” through various citizen-making practices such as voting or participation in public deliberations. As “a group of peoplewho, because of physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from others in the society inwhich they live for differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves asobjects of collective discrimination” (Wirth, 1945, p. 347), the way minorities use alternativespaces such as the Internet for articulating their struggle can be explored as acts of citizenship. Consonant with seeing citizenship as “performance” or as “acts” is the theorization of whatconstitutes “acts of citizenship”. Isin and Nielsen (2008, p. 39) define acts of citizenship as “thoseacts that transform forms (orientations, strategies, technologies) and modes (citizens, strangers,outsiders, aliens) of being political by bringing into being new actors as activist citizens (claimantsof rights and responsibilities) through creating new sites and scales of struggle”. According to thistheorization, acts of citizenship are acts through which citizens, strangers, and aliens emerge notas beings already defined, but as beings acting and reacting with others, as they enact ways ofbecoming political actors. Here, subjects can become activist citizens through their acts. Isin &Nielsen (2008, p. 38) differentiates activist from active citizens, the former being those who do notmerely act out scripts, but create scenes for contestation by refusing, resisting, or subverting theorientations, strategies, and technologies (through techniques, strategies, tactics) that are availablefor enacting being with each other. Acts of citizenship are not necessarily rational and planned andcannot be reduced to calculability, intentionality and responsibility (Isin, & Nielsen, 2008, pp. 38-39).1.2 Multiculturalism and citizenship in developing Asia Many studies have shown how minorities: blacks, women, ethnic and religious minorities,gays and lesbians, still feel marginalized or stigmatized despite possessing common rights as“citizens” (Kymlicka, 2002, He & Kymlicka, 2005). Members of these groups experience   3  
  • 4. marginalization not solely due to socio-economic status but because of their socio-cultural identitythat is different from the majority. These groups argue that common rights afforded by citizenshipcannot accommodate the needs of other groups and hence demand some forms of “differentiatedcitizenship”. Kymlicka (1995, 2002) labels such forms of citizenship claims as “multiculturalcitizenship”. Asia is a region of ethnic and cultural diversity, and with this arose multiple forms of“identity politics”, or people’s mobilization along ethnic, religious, racial, and cultural lines whererecognition of historic claims, entitlements, legal rights, and power-sharing are demanded (He &Kymlicka, 2005; Hefner, 2001; Brown and Ganguly, 1997). Managing this diversity and identitypolitics has been an important consideration in maintaining political stability in the region (He &Kymlicka, 2005, p. 3). With respect to the treatment of minorities, the Philippines may be judged as a relativebright spot in Southeast Asia. For ethnic (indigenous) and religious minorities (Moros2), the nationhas passed some of the region’s most progressive legislation, and minority peoples, specificallythe indigenous and Muslim minority have won significant economic, political and culturalconcessions from government (Eder and McKenna, 2004). For sexual minorities, the SupremeCourt’s decision to allow the first national lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender/transsexual(LGBT) political party in the country, and purportedly in Asia, to run for the 2010 nationwideelections, marked a significant opening for queers in the political arena, a considerableachievement in this predominantly Catholic country. Despite these gains, however, there aresignificant grounds for problematizing the condition of minorities in Philippine society. Theseinclude the apparent inability of the state to match policy with deeds to address minorities’grievances. The continued encroachment of corporate interests or “development projects” inancestral lands is an issue continually fought by indigenous peoples. Unmet social, political andeconomic grievances sustain the violent armed conflict of Muslim rebels with the Philippine                                                                                                                2 The term ‘Moro’ refers to Muslims indigenous to Christian dominated Philippines and will be used throughout the thesis. The term Morohistorically contains a derogatory connotation, originating from the word ‘moors’ although the Moro revolutionary organizations have usedthe term to define an identity for their struggle. The term ‘Bangsamoro’, also mentioned in this paper, comes from the words “bangsa”(nation) and “Moro” (Muslim identity), and has signified the Moro’s clamour for an independent state   4  
  • 5. government. At the same time, the LGBT community continues to chronicle violent crimes anddiscrimination cases against their community. Minority resistance in the Philippines question stateinstitutions which indirectly grant greater privileges and entitlement rights to the majority andcontest how the state suppresses resistance by mobilizing support for national sovereignty(Abinales, 2000; Tuminez, 2008). Ethnic, ethno-religious, and sexual minority movements areexamples that show how discontent continue despite the enactment of certain legislations, as thesegroups continually contest exclusions, oppressions, and inequalities that result from structuralinequality. For minorities, group identity is salient because minorities’ rights would depend inpart, on their group membership. To achieve their goals, minorities seek a range of differentiated rights, including someform of territorial self-government or autonomy (e.g. indigenous people of Cordillera in thePhilippines), official language status, sub-state rights (e.g. Moros in the Philippines), or the rightto establish a full set of public institutions (Kymlicka, 2002). Finally, other groups accept the ideaof national integration, but require certain forms of differential treatment as minority groups. Forexample, the LGBT community feel wrongly excluded from their national culture dominated byheterosexual normativity and seek political representation as sexual minorities3.1.3 Dialectical tensions of online self-mediation Early studies have argued that the Internet represents “politics as usual” by alreadypolitically active actors (Margolis & Resnick, 2000; Hill & Hughes, 1998, p. 186). However, avariety of online media platforms are now available for ordinary people to express themselves inpublic, and this participation is heralded with its promise of blurring traditional boundariesbetween producers and consumers. In this platform, minority groups from the developing worldcan articulate claims, strategically mobilize and participate in the forms of meaning-making thatconstitute them. However, there is skepticism on the actual value of online spaces in effecting                                                                                                                3  In many societies, and most especially in Christian-dominated Philippines, homosexuality as practiced (i.e. a sexual act between two peopleof the same sex) is considered a sin. Thus, many members of the LGBT community do not participate fully in the national culture not due tolack of education or economic status but due to cultural marginalization as members of the ‘Third sex’.     5  
  • 6. minority agency in an internet-mediated environment. Critical perspectives of internet-mediatedcommunication raise this debate on the agent’s ability to resist power, domination and control.Further, concern about whether the global character of online media can be used to articulateminority agendas and allow the meaningful production of culture is tied to views that globaltechnologies can challenge, distort, or undermine locality’s production. The pervasiveness of theneoliberal and capitalist logic in technology (Hassan, 2008; Dean, 2002; Armitage, 1999;Ginsburg, et.al, 2002), coupled by state controls in internet-mediated activism (Zhou, 2006; Kelly& Etling, 2008; York, 2011) have raised some very crucial questions on the value of the Internetfor social change movements from the margins. At the same time, the essentialism ingrained indevelopmentalist approaches that characterize technology as emancipatory tools led to asuperficial understanding of internet-mediated engagements from developing societies(Sreekumar, 2011). This relationship between new media technologies and participatory practices is capturedin the “democratization of technology” and “technologization of democracy” dialectic (Chuliariki,2010). Democratization of technology (Burgess, 2006; Hartley, 2010) focuses on the empoweringpotential of new media technologies for counter-hegemonic, emancipatory practices.Technologization of democracy, on the other hand, addresses self-mediation from the perspectiveof the regulative potential of new media technologies in controlling the discourses and inreproducing existing unequal power relations (Chuliariki, 2010, p. 227). It is therefore importantto explore minorities’ intention, meaning-making, and negotiations behind such “performances ofcitizenship” within the lens of this dialectical tension.1.4 Minorities, modes of artful resistance, and ‘hidden transcripts’ Until quite recently, much of the active political life of subordinate groups has been ignoredbecause it takes place at a level we rarely recognize as ‘political’. Resistance is often capturedthrough visible achievements of political liberties from rallies, street protests, and other forms of   6  
  • 7. open political expression. In the online realm, there has been significant scholarly attentiontowards overt political action and the formation of networks between small and large transnationalcivil society and activist organizations. However, given the context of most minorities, openpolitical action will hardly capture the bulk of political action and resistance. Exclusive attentionto declared resistance is also limited for understanding the process by which new political forcesand demands germinate. If conception of the political is confined to activities that are openlydeclared, we can be driven to conclude that minorities have limited political life, or that minoritiesare easily swept by the emancipatory promises of new technologies. One explanation for exploring such “hidden forms” of acts of citizenship and resistance,especially in the context of subordinated groups can be gleaned from Scott’s (1990) distinctionamong “public transcripts” (open interactions and presentations of the subordinated), “hidden”transcripts (discourse that takes place offstage), and “infrapolitics” (a coded version of hiddentranscripts that takes place in the public view). Criticizing theories of ideological hegemony, Scottcontends that what is believed as hegemony or “ratifying the social ideology” of dominant-groupideas is in fact only an uncritical observation of the public transcript (1990, p. 35). Subordinategroups are capable of formulating their own criticisms of the social relations in which they findthemselves in through strategies beyond overt political contestations. Through this contention,Scott highlights the importance of probing about people’s ability to control what can be publiclyspoken of (and what to be kept hidden), or how they creatively plan small ways of liftingthemselves from subordination or challenging the dominant, as an explicit expression of agency. The hidden transcript also insinuates itself in the public forum through a politics of disguiseand anonymity, or which Scott calls infrapolitics. According to Scott (1990), infrapolitics, or“resistance that dare not speak its own name”, “represents the politics of disguise and concealmentthat takes place in the public view, but is designed to have double (or ambiguous) meaning or toshield the identity of the actors” (Scott, 1990, p. 19). What this paper explores, in bringing Scott’snotion of hidden transcripts and infrapolitics, are minority groups’ experiences in negotiating the   7  
  • 8. use of Internet technology on the one hand, and the adaptive strategic behavior in determininghow (and how not) to represent themselves and their struggle in a public online space, on theother, as “acts of citizenship”.2. Case Studies of negotiating online media engagement Through preliminary online research on Philippine minority organizations with onlinespaces, twenty five organizations with active sites were shortlisted as possible cases. The casestudies for this paper (see Table 2) were selected purposively (Yin, 2008, p. 91) based on thefollowing pre-defined criteria: (1) legitimacy of the organization (e.g. not fly by night) and scopeof network based on expert interviews and secondary research; (2) highest levels of online activitybased on recency of posts, number of online spaces, and activity in the online spaces; and (4)agreement to participate in the research. As the research questions pertained to the organizations’meaning – making and experiences of Internet use, access to the members and leaders and to otherorganizational data via in-depth interviews were a critical consideration. Face to face, online andtelephone interviews with organizations’ leaders, information officers, and members, as well ashistorians, experts, and civil society members significantly involved with the group’s activitieswere conducted in April-May 2010 and February and May 2011. For purposes of triangulatingfindings, the form, content, and style of political mobilization in the online spaces were alsoreviewed and analyzed at three periods, January to May 2010 (in preparation for and during fieldinterviews), October to December, 2010, and May-July 2011, although I followed these sites andvisited them weekly to observe and document the issues that they present and discuss4. Onlinespaces pertained to active website or blogs (s) and e-groups. Some of the organizations only havewebsites while others used a wide range of online spaces (See Table 3). Although the social                                                                                                                4 The online spaces’ content archive were also reviewed during specific, politically relevant time periods which may affectthe content and style of online political mobilization.   8  
  • 9. networking sites of some of the groups were also analyzed, the findings from said analysis is notcovered in this paper. Table 2. Case study organizations Organization Name Minoritization Description Cordillera People’s Alliance Ethnic Local activist / alliance of (CPA) (indigenous) indigenous grassroots organizations Moro Islamic Liberation Ethno-religious One of the lead Moro Front (Muslim) revolutionary groups Ladlad Sexual /Gender National LGBT political party (Queer) Table 3. Online Spaces of Case Study Organizations Organization Type Website E- Facebook E-group Twitter Magazine Cordillera Peoples’ Indigenous √ √* Alliance Ladlad LGBT √ (3)** √ (2) √ √ Moro Islamic Muslim √ √ √ (2) undisclosed √ Liberation Front √(3)*** Based on interviews and review of online spaces *Exclusive to members; not accessible to researcher ** Mirror sites *** One is the original website, another a mirror website; and a third one, an Arabic version of the website2.1 Hidden transcripts of indigenous online mediation The Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA) is a federation of people’s organizations, most ofthem grassroots-based among the indigenous communities in the Cordillera region of thePhilippines, which is home to the major indigenous groups of about 1.2 million in population(ADB, 2002). Founded in 1984, the CPA seeks to promote and defend indigenous people’s rights,human rights, social justice and national freedom and democracy (CPA website,www.cpaphils.org, 2010). CPA was selected for its activist roots and strong linkages with otherCordillera civil society and grassroots organizations, having the historical association of leadingthe indigenous movement. The CPA launched its website in 2004 with financial assistance from   9  
  • 10. the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. CPA’s banner tagline carries its core advocacy, “forthe defense of ancestral domain and for self-determination”. Managing its website internallyprovides CPA more control in keeping updates on time, in editing the postings, as well as inmaintaining security over the site’s content (CPA Information officer, Personal interview, May2010). CPA officers and members in the head-office in Baguio city have laptop computers thatshare a wireless connection; on the other hand, many of its grassroots organizational partners haveat least one computer in the office but have to travel to internet cafes (distance of about 1 to 7kilometres) to access the internet (Soriano, 2012). Among the minority groups studied in this paper, CPA had been most cautious about theimplications of online engagement to their image as an indigenous activist organization, and toindigenous knowledge and way of life. Interviews revealed that they plan their online mediationsto negotiate technological, state, and capitalist controls. The use of online technology by CPAentailed a complex negotiation of opportunities and challenges, to the extent that the Internet isconsidered as “an arena of struggle”. Symbolic forms and creative techniques are engaged as partof a multi-layered negotiation of production and distribution processes that took advantage oftechnology while accentuating indigenous identity and challenging the forces that undermineculture and knowledge. For example, contrary to concerns in the literature that indigenous peoplemay be unknowingly threatened by the dangers of online media (Landzelius, 2006; Ginsburg,et.al, 2002), CPA leaders were found to have a clear understanding of the varied threats posed bypossible government surveillance of their sites, and therefore control the public discussion ofsensitive opinion pieces and tactics. Awareness of the dangers of security threats in the onlinespaces also pushed the group to strategize resources to minimize such threats, such as disablinginteractive forums or chat facilities in their websites. Secondly, indigenous people are notautomatically “objectified” by commercial forces as they engage with the online medium. CPAshared conscious efforts to veer away from capitalist pulls such as website advertisements isconducted at the expense of not having interactive chat facilities. They also exercised caution over   10  
  • 11. the publication of indigenous knowledge online and had set rules that all indigenous knowledgethat are “ritual-based” must be not be put up online. Moreover, the group accounted the lengthy process of website planning and how membersdebated on how to best represent the organization’s indigenous mark through the online space.The process of presenting their struggle online aided the organization into determining “whatmakes them indigenous” and “how to present themselves and their struggles to the generalpublic”. This can be construed as “strategic essentialism”, yet CPA explained that articulatingtheir difference as indigenous people is an important way to justify the historical and politicalbasis of their political claims. For example, demanding for the protection of their ancestral landsfrom “development projects” can only be explained using the rituals and cultural meaningsattached to such lands. Their account reflected a process different from simply buying into thehype of having an online space, but involved a careful rethinking of their indigeneity in theprocess of articulating their claims in the online medium. Inasmuch as the website “represents”and “constructs” them as a people, it has aided them to recollect from history and from presentstruggles what elements would constitute this indigeneity. While having a website would seem driven only by an accommodation of certain standards ofprofessionalization and reaffirms certain representational processes required of developingcountry organizations by donors, I found that the motivations for going online is based on theorganizations’ assessments of the actual value of the online spaces to them. The organizationsadmitted to the reality of the need to constantly attract external support. However, they argue thatthis clamor for “external support” is less focused on the financial aspect but more on gainingstrength through solidarity with indigenous activists and organizations in other parts of the world.As national minorities, the groups emphasized the limited authentic support afforded bygovernment and other local institutions to indigenous causes, making it necessary for them to seeksupport from and be in solidarity with indigenous communities with similar experiences fromoutside. For example, CPA mentioned that because the issues they advance often attack   11  
  • 12. multinational companies or government which have significant control of local mainstream media,the only way to communicate their causes and claims that can reach a broader internationalaudience, is through their online space.2.2 The Moro Muslim Movement: Multiple Transcripts as Political Strategy The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is considered the biggest organization leadingthe Moro struggle for self–determination in the Philippines. Besides being a major party in thepeace negotiations, the MILF is estimated to be the biggest armed group in the country (Coronel-Ferrer, 2010). The Moro people’s struggle is historical, dynamic and multi-dimensional, and it hasmultiple roots and consequences (Abinales, 2000; Tuminez, 2008). The territorial and economicroots of the Moro grievances are intertwined with their minoritization in Mindanao, which beganduring Spanish colonization, continued under American rule, and was further intensified in anindependent, Christian-dominated Philippines (Tuminez, 2008, p. 2). Aside from dispossession ofland and statistical minoritization in Mindanao, the situation of resentment against the Philippinestate is caused by the relative poverty of the Muslim dominated provinces vis-a-vis otherprovinces in the country. The five provinces with the highest concentration of Muslims haveconsistently occupied the lowest Human Development and Human Poverty (HDI) rankings from1997 to 2009 (Philippine Human Development Network, 2009, pp.111-116; 2006, pp. 101-109). The MILF set up its first website, Luwaran.com in 1998. When the MILF planned thewebsite, they wanted a name that will conceal their ownership of the website to avoid securityattacks. The term luwaran was deemed appropriate, because it is symbolic for the Moros andcannot be easily construed as an MILF-owned website. However, as MILF became moreprominent as the organization leading the Moro struggle, the website began to be used as theofficial communication platform for publicizing the struggle. Their online spaces, according to   12  
  • 13. MILF leaders, now serve as the MILF’s central media outlet for self-representation and seek todraw the attention of mainstream media. Now the MILF maintains four websites5, built primarily to reach out to an external,international audience, provide an alternative platform to communicate the real history ofmarginalization of the Moros, and solicit support that will help strengthen its capacity and realizeits goals. One of these sites is an Arabic website aimed to attract the sympathy and support of thelarger Islamic community. MILF also runs two active Facebook Pages 6, and a Twitter andMySpace page, which as of July 2011, have no content. The MILF Web Team argued thatFacebook “allows us to present the organization soft and hard”, and explained that while they areoften projected as violent, backward, and terrorist, they can also project themselves as “humans”,modern, and capable of articulating their struggle both in diplomatic and informal ways (MILFWeb team, personal communication, May 2010)7. Its online spaces are self-managed by the MILFwith the help of about seven members based in Mindanao and overseas. The Web team sharedsystem generated reports about its website readership through website analytics, which impliesthat the organization conducts active monitoring of the visitors of their online spaces.Luwaran.com was originally hosted in a server located in Mindanao, but security attacks havecompelled them to invest in a secured server based in the United States. Multiple strategies reflect how the MILF works its way through the opportunities andchallenges of the online environment and its situation as a minority. Social media gives MILF theflexibility to oscillate across multiple representations given their goals and purposes. As onlinespaces are visible to the government military, the embedding of disguised political message underthe blanket of ambiguity and anonymity, and yet presented in public, is key to the MILF’s hidden                                                                                                                5 MILF’s online spaces include: (i) www.luwaran.com; (ii) www.luwaran.net, its mirror website; (iii) an Arabic Luwaran,http://www.luwaran.net/arabic/, and (iv) The Moro Chronicles, http://www.tmchronicles.com/. These three other websites all have directlinks from the Home Page of the main website, luwaran.com.6 The MILF has two Facebook pages: Luwaran https://www.facebook.com/pages/luwarancom/390099909273and Luwaran Marshlandhttps://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000873888025. Luwaran Marshland functions as an official sounding board and provideslinks to articles and documents available in the website. Luwaran is a more interactive space where members and antagonists debate. (Reviewof Facebook pages, Mar 2010-July 2011)7 Due to space limits, this paper will not cover the analysis MILF’s Facebook pages, which is covered in another paper, Soriano, C &Sreekumar, TT (forthcoming). Multiple Transcripts as Political Strategy: Social Media and Conflicting Identities of the Moro LiberationMovement in the Philippines. Media, Culture, and Society.   13  
  • 14. transcripts. I now discuss these multiple online strategies where the message and messenger aremade ambiguous through techniques of disguise and concealment that facilitate open criticism aswell as uninhibited expressions. When the MILF started negotiations with the government formally in 1997, it framed itsclaims on the basis of an independent Islamic state (Bangsamoro) marked by self-governanceunder Islamic ways of life. While the website reports the peace negotiations with government, aslogan in the website also expresses its original aim, “Moro is a nation. No to Integration, no tounitary state, uphold the Moro right to self-determination”. This contradicts the politicalconciliation which the MILF has voiced out in the recent peace negotiations, which is a movetowards integration as a “substate” and not an independent state. Interestingly, this slogan used tobe placed at the Homepage, but has now been relocated as embedded in the pages. The retentionof the slogan, despite shifts in actual claims during political settlement, highlights theorganization’s ultimate aim, which is to establish a state independent from the Philippinegovernment. Participants in its Facebook page, who claim to be young members of theorganization, regularly post pictures of drones and missiles and openly express their frustrationover the peace talks and a support towards war. But MILF leaders explained that the Facebookpage allows them to observe the opinion of their members views “without having to answer for it”(Soriano & Sreekumar, forthcoming). One of its websites, The Moro Chronicles, is laid out as an e-magazine and is notexplicitly identified as belonging to the MILF. Identifying marks, such as ‘About us’, photos ofprevious organizational leaders, and members’ publications are embedded inside the postings,rather than taking prominent spots in the Homepage. And yet, it contains content very similar tothat of Luwaran. The attempt to mask the Moro revolutionary identity from some of its onlinespaces seems consistent with the way the MILF engages non-Moros to write for the website,arguing that when non-Moros speak for the struggle, they tend to be more credible, and whenMoros speak about themselves, it is propaganda. This is also consistent with MILF’s strategy of   14  
  • 15. maintaining some self-supported non-profit organizations not well-known to the public (Personalcommunication, MILF leader, May 2010). These acts can be construed as infrapolitical forms of political action designed to obscurethe intentions or to take cover behind an apparent meaning or author (Scott, 1990: 200). Asinfrapolitical strategies make the message or identity ambiguous, they often escape notice and yet,such strategies represent truthful transcripts of grudges and aspirations that serve as foundation forresistant subcultures and elaborate forms of resistance.2.3 Building a collective amidst diversity: online political mobilization of the Philippine LGBTcommunity In May 2010, a political party of self-identified LGBT individuals, Ladlad (Out of theCloset), was on the ballot for the first time in the Philippines, after the Elections Commissionfinally granted them accreditation under the party-list system. The party-list system of elections,promulgated in the Philippine Constitution of 1987, is intended to allocate space for the inclusionof society’s marginalized sectors in law-making. A Congressional seat is deemed to give theLGBT community a voice in the crafting and passing of the pending Anti-Discrimination Bill.Ladlad did not receive the sufficient number of votes to acquire a seat in Congress during the 2010elections, but the party has already launched an intensified campaign for the 2013 polls. Thisinclusion of LGBTs as political actors is a significant departure from typical characterizations andcaricaturizations of LGBT people in society and an interesting aspect for the analysis of LGBTpolitical formations within a largely conservative and Catholic society. In recent years, Ladlad hasdeveloped a wide set of Internet based campaign strategies. Of the three minority groupings, theuse of online spaces to bring together members and mobilize them as a collective force was onlypossible to the queer organizations because of the greater number of members that have onlineaccess.   15  
  • 16. Evidence from the case of Ladlad presents the diversity in self-concepts of the Philippinequeer community. An important theme arising from Ladlad’s case is the construction of a ‘we’amidst this heterogeneity. The framing of narratives and posts in the website and socialnetworking sites converge towards the sharing of experiences of marginalization to createsolidarity and “community” among the members. The reality that homo/transphobia lurks acrossall sectors in society—in politics, in the workplace, in the university, in the prison, and overseas,implies that LGBTs share a common threat irrespective of their education, religion, and socio-economic status. But it also allows diverse members to share their strengths to the less privilegedmembers, for example, lawyers providing assistance to abused members. In the case of Ladlad, anational organization where online members may have no actual face-to-face contact, it is throughthe community of belonging where they share and confront the basis of oppression, which isdiscrimination of sexes and genders on the basis of dominant values and norms. A backstage viewof their online spaces shows how minoritization and narratives of discrimination are used tomobilize the sentiments of its membership and move them into solidarity and action. Through thesharing of personal experiences of discrimination, LGBTs from a diverse class, social strata,religious beliefs, and self-concepts, find a common ground. This sharing of common experienceserves as an affirmation of belonging and works as the foundation for community and socialmovement online amongst members who are physically ‘dis-embedded’, but socially andpolitically ‘embedded’. Online spaces where they discuss and exchange in ‘cocoons’ shield thisgroup from discrimination, offer solidarity and support—and at times even legal or medicalassistance--and allow them to act together against forces of queer discrimination. A closer analysis of Ladlad’s online spaces also shows an arena of strategiccommunication where they distinguish between public (what must be posted openly) and private(what should not be posted in the site) given cultural orientations and political objectives. Thismove for setting rules on private and public talk can easily be dismissed as an accommodation ofheteronormativity. However, the organization caters to a diverse range of ideologies, including   16  
  • 17. those of members whose self-concepts are heavily influenced by the Catholic church, which stillwidely influences social mores and norms. Setting up rules for distinguishing between public,political talk and private talk is deemed necessary in order to advance a queer agenda in Philippinesociety because extremely radical approaches can be immediately nullified or censored. And yet,some members bend such rules creatively by inserting some private talk containing personal andsexual musings into the public space. Further, the private and sexual are also embedded in thepolitical articulations and shared experiences that form the basis for their individual and collectivepolitical resistance.3. Alternative forms of political practice: Reconfiguring citizenship? This section will discuss the following alternative forms of political practice arising fromminority online political mobilization: 1) broadening the arena of politics by seeing thetechnological as political; 2) expanding the realm of minority politics beyond the nation state; 3)broadening the scope of political strategy through hidden transcripts and infrapolitics; 4)facilitating the disruption of structures.3.1 The technological as political: broadening the arena of politics It will be recalled how some past studies have perceived minority groups as having lack ofcontrol over technology, and therefore potentially further marginalized by its use. In the casestudies, we found that minority groups are active actors negotiating their engagement withtechnology as they use it to articulate their political aims. Minority groups did not have clearintention of challenging the instrumental logic of technology, or fighting a predominantlyWestern, capitalist medium, that is the Internet. However, in the process of engagement, theydeliberate and make decisions about its threats and relevance to their political cause. This process of negotiating technological engagement by minority groups can be   17  
  • 18. construed as “subpolitics” (p. 795). Beck (1997, p. 103) advanced the concept of “subpolitics” torepresent a new mode of operation of the political, in which agents coming from outside theofficially recognized political and corporate system appear on the stage of social design, includingdifferent professional groups and organizations, citizens’ issue-centered initiatives, socialmovements, and individuals. In questioning “what is political in subpolitics?”, De Vries (2007)distinguished between actions undertaken with the intention of an external end or goal (poiesis)and actions that aim at the activities themselves (praxis), which involves processes of planning,discussion, negotiation, and decision-making (De Vries, 2007, p. 792). He explained that thepolitical not only constitutes actions where instrumental action is present and a desired end isclearly outlined. This conceptualization is therefore parallel to how Isin conceptualizes “acts ofcitizenship” as not being bound by responsibility, calculability and intentionality (2002, p. 11).The experiences of minority groups with the use of online media for activism showed thatstrategic use of technology is emergent, and arises out of practice. The political activitiesundertaken in the online environment developed after learning how to negotiate technologicalengagement. The process of choosing positions and courses of action vis-a-vis clashes of values andinterests in a larger social world represents an instance of subpolitics (Bakardjieva, 2009, p. 96).The case studies show how the interests of disenfranchised minorities and participants in usingtechnology to articulate their struggles facilitated the emergence of politicized formationschallenging the existing hierarchical order. With their negotiations surrounding online politicalmobilization, minorities have demonstrated not only that they are able to make their politicalclaims audible if provided the opportunity, but they also showed that the technological, which is initself “an arena of struggle” can be political. I argue that this process of backstage planning,deliberation, and negotiation by the groups about their online political mobilization can beconstrued as subpolitical strategies that also constitute “acts of citizenship”.   18  
  • 19. 3.2 Expanding the realm of the minority politics beyond the nation-state The nation-state is an important frame of reference for asserting claims, and serve as theprimary context for the everyday lives and imaginations for most people. Yet, minorities are oftenmarginalized from state policies and programs. Minorities’ claims of unmet grievances andexperiences of suffering from the majority’s issue-framing practices are closely related to theirsituation as minorities within the nation-state. The indigenous and Moro cases provided evidence for how the Internet is being used byminority groups to bring local issues into the international political arena to solicit support. Thesegroups value the establishment of international networks and connections as a way to move outfrom their minoritization. For the indigenous group CPA, the internationalization of theindigenous rights discourse stemmed from the collective work of indigenous communities indifferent parts of the world. Given the commonalities of struggle of many indigenous communitiesglobally, international solidarity had been strengthened over the years8. The Moro group, on theother hand, showed how imaginations of an Islamic ‘nation’ has inspired them to seek support andsolidarity with Islamic communities outside the Philippines. The use of an Islamic version of thewebsite thus created a sense of belonging with other Islamic communities, as the MILF was ableto find audience and solidarity among Muslim activists, intelligentsia, philanthropists andsupporters, as well as fundamentalists. The MILF also perceives that obtaining the internationalcommunity’s support (i.e. the United States, International Monitoring Group, and Organization ofIslamic Countries) would influence the Philippine state in taking more seriously their politicaldemands. They believe that such networks project an image of commitment to peace andcooperation, which could help fast track the enactment of political resolutions to the conflict. Thus, minority activists, aided by online media, are expanding the realm of the political asthey reach out beyond national territorial boundaries. The queer group Ladlad does not directlytarget the international community in their online articulations but reported interactions with and                                                                                                                8  The passing of the Universal Declaration of Indigenous People’s Rights and the intervention of the international community on nationalissues of forced disappearances, dams, or mining activities give prominence to the importance of these networks for smaller local indigenouscommunities.     19  
  • 20. recognition by some international organizations of the activities posted in their website,particularly their accreditation as a political party. Fridae.com, BBC and CNN, for example, havecovered the organization’s struggle for accreditation as an LGBT political party as well as itscandidature in the 2010 elections. These strategies reflect the transnational context by which such minority activists crafttheir purpose and strategies of online political mobilization. It also shows that nation-states as thesole definitional basis for political interaction is undermined by online media use. However, theorganization’s location within the boundaries of the Philippine nation implies that the politicaluses and controls within national boundaries also figure in the actualization of their goals in theuse of online media. As minority groups seek connection with international actors to solicitalternative audiences and support, minority groups remain restricted by the technologicalenvironment and regulatory policies. Thus, a regime of state control at the virtual front alsolimited the political activities they conducted online. The CPA and MILF reported experiences ofhacking and spamming of their online spaces by the government military and this has affectedtheir decision not to have interactive chat features in their website to avoid their enemies frommaligning them in their own spaces. Ladlad, on the other hand, exercises caution over its onlinepresentations in consideration of its members who strongly abide by the teachings of the Catholicchurch. While minority groups’ uses of new media have been strategic and purposive, thetransnational circuits and harmful structures surrounding online new media render these spaces notfully controllable by the minority groups. Therefore, while we see emergent strategies of creativeappropriation and concrete benefits in terms of resource mobilization by reaching out to a wider,international audience, minority struggles can also be threatened by the same transnational natureof the online space. Media flow is much too dynamic to be controlled, but they attempt to managetheir online expositions through a discernment of the risks accompanying the publishing ofcontent and the construction of their identities and struggle.   20  
  • 21. Further, while minority activists widen their repertoires of contention, states are still thedrivers of technology and have huge control over its development. While minorities are able tobuild international alliances through online presence, these international entities still stronglyrecognize state institutions over activists; and even though the groups are able to reach out topotential networks beyond the nation state, their struggles still ultimately require nation-stateattention. The actual outcomes of their online political mobilization are dependent on how thesesolidarities and support generated could translate into influencing state positions and expeditingaction towards their grievances and claims. Thus, a challenge for these alternative sites of politicsis generating an audience from those it seeks understanding from — the target governments, thesocial majority, intellectuals, and the broader mass media — that can further broaden the reach ofthese groups’ articulations beyond its existing supporters, and towards obtaining the attention ofthe state. For Ladlad, the Facebook tagging feature is believed by its members to have facilitated theinadvertent exposure of the groups’ advocacies and campaigns to potential non-LGBT supporters(and voters) and it has called the local and global media’s attention towards important cases ofLGBT discrimination. Its Twitter function has allowed it to connect to important media andentertainment personalities, publicly known intellectuals, and journalists, who have begun topromote the organization through their television shows and “tweets” in Twitter. It will beinteresting to find out how such online initiatives will have an impact in Ladlad’s bid for electionsin 2013. According to the MILF, the generation of up to date news and editorial content in itswebsite is important, as it is used actively by Moro bloggers and international journalists. Morobloggers, historians, and Mindanao analysts interviewed for this study noted their regular relianceon MILF’s website for news on the Moro struggle and general updates in the Moro communities(J. Macarambon, A. Mawalil, R. Rodil, J.Abbas, Personal communication, April, 2010, July-Oct2011). Indigenous organizations, however, refuse to engage in interactive social media due to   21  
  • 22. resource and capacity limitations and security concerns. Nonetheless, members share videos andpress releases from its website into their respective social networking pages to generate broaderattention and viewership. These allow them to learn about similar issues and strategies from otherminority actors in other parts of the globe, attract understanding and support from the externalcommunity, and obtain strength through solidarity with minorities of similar experiences. At thesame time, they facilitate the production of their own resources as well as archive of statementsthat they pass on to inspire future struggles.3.3 Hidden transcripts and infrapolitics: Broadening the scope of online political strategy A backstage view of the meaning-making and strategic engagement by minority groups oftheir online spaces surfaces hidden transcripts and infrapolitics that represent creative ways bywhich: i) minorities resist technological challenges, and ii) use technology to communicate theirpolitical goals. First, by distinguishing between the open, declared forms of resistance of minoritygroups which attract the most attention, and the low-profile, undeclared resistance (hiddentranscripts) that constitute the minorities’ use of online media, this study identifies alternativeways that resistance to domination and hegemony can be exercised. Their careful crafting ofwebsite content and planning of website features that veer away from the trappings of commercialforces or state controls of the online medium reflect a political and counter-hegemonic strategy.Second, paying attention to the use of particular features of online media, political acts can bedisguised, concealed, or made ambiguous, and multiple meanings can be generated to targetdiverse audiences, and cater to competing voices. Such strategies create new dimensions ofunderstanding political action and technological possibilities and constraints for actors from themargins. These are strategies that are enacted at the backstage. By probing these groups’ meaning-making of online political mobilization, we surface them as political acts that can serve as thebasis for broader and louder forms of political expression.   22  
  • 23. 3.4 Disruption of structures The use of online spaces by minority groups is directed toward the disruption of the statusquo and its structures that support inequity and injustice. The voices of minorities amidstPhilippine’s democracy, for example, is a reminder that despite freedom of speech and democraticstructures of governance that are supposed to look after the needs of all Filipinos, minorityoppression and marginalization persist. This disrupts the narratives of normalcy and falsedemocracy presented in mainstream discourses. For instance, articulation by indigenous communities about corporate mining encroachingupon indigenous ancestral lands communicates a counter-hegemonic attack not only against theforces of capitalism that drive such encroachment, but also against the government, which haspublicly vowed to protect indigenous peoples’ right to ancestral domain under local laws andinternationally recognized declarations. Connections made with indigenous communities in otherparts of the world reinforce their courage in speaking against power structures. Such articulationsand representations of local reality disrupt the narratives of progress expected out of such‘development’ projects in indigenous lands. On the other hand, the Muslim minority’s continued performance of “screen memories”(Ginsburg, et.al, 2002), historical roots of minoritization of the Moros and circumstantialannexation to the Philippine state, and its clamor for recognition of the neglect under thePhilippine state, helps provide a basis for understanding their political claims. In this instance,Moro performance online disrupts the status quo symbolically by situating the dominant rhetoricof democracy and peace beside the lived experience of conflict, oppression, hunger andmarginalization of Moro communities. Articulations in the MILF’s Facebook page alsocommunicate another disruption as they present views alternative from the MILF leadership.Similarly, queer online articulations with regard to the depth of discrimination in Filipino societychallenges dominant notions that queers are “well-accepted” or “tolerated”.   23  
  • 24. Culturally, such performances draw attention to structural injustices and articulate calls forvarious sectors, local and global, to aid in the efforts of disrupting the structures of oppression. Asargued by Dutta (2011), as markers of culture, these performances demonstrate materialpossibilities of dynamic cultural expressions that deconstruct old meanings and create new ones,and “such cultural politics opens up spaces for change in consciousness, which in turn form thebasis for legislative and other forms of political change.” (p. 214). The performance of dissent by these minority groups online extends local symbolic sitesof resistance to the realm of the mainstream culture, state regulation and capitalist controls. Theseperformances also disrupt the material structures of exploitation. Not having communicativespaces reifies structural marginalization by making minorities unable to articulate their absence ofresources and unable to find solutions to absences. Online political mobilization gives minoritygroups an additional platform to speak against historical structures surrounding theirminoritization. This process of disruption of structures facilitate the viewing of minorities as politicalactors, while opening up what constitute the political by bringing in minority issues not only ascultural but also as political issues. In the Philippines, Moro, LGBT, and indigenous issues arecommonly problematized in terms of representation. Their online productions allow them toarticulate their political claims that constitute themselves as political actors and claimants of rightsand entitlements. Finally, the Internet provides activists with a medium through which they can developinformational resources. The groups found the online archiving of petitions, opinion statementsand documentation of organizational activities useful for convenient retrieval by its members orsupporters, especially given the problems these groups face with regard to displacements,disasters, and office movements. As information resources used to be dominated by those whohave access to mainstream media, these productions by minority groups are also important as theyexpand information and political resources that can be tapped by journalists, bloggers, academics,   24  
  • 25. and political analysts both local and abroad. As argued by Rodgers (2003), this expansion ofinformational sources can limit the opportunities for any category of actors to hegemonicallyinfluence the discourse of political legitimacy.4. Closing The cases of online political mobilization by minority groups represent cases of self-mediation of political struggles and herein analyzed as an exercise of citizenship. A long history ofminoritization from social, economic, and political fronts, and their previously limited access tooutlets of expression and fair representation in traditional media forms have encouraged thesegroups to value the availability of online spaces to communicate their struggles to a broaderaudience. Awareness of the nature of minority groups’ relations with the state and existingregulations built into online spaces inspired their strategies of technology appropriation. Theiractivist roots, long-immersion into community causes, exposure to issues of imperialism andglobal capitalism made them cautious that similar forces could potentially affect their onlinepolitical initiatives. Media representations of these minorities are often biased and there is limited space forarticulating their political claims. The many-to-many reach of Internet technology allowed theseminorities to penetrate the scene of politics by: broadening the scope of the political beyond thenation state, by engaging the technological as political; expanding the realm of political strategybeyond overt expressions of dissent; and disrupting structures of normalcy and democracy. The absence of mass-media style editorial control also opens up possibilities for newforms of political engagement, giving minorities the opportunity to create new informationalresources about their grievances, aspirations and struggles. According to the deliberative model ofpolitics, encountering new opinions would encourage people to rethink their views, reconsidertheir biases and predilections, and foster reflection and understanding (Arendt 1968 cited in   25  
  • 26. Wocjieszak, 2010, p. 640). Fraser (1992) argued that minorities are important in balancing theviews within any rational critical discourse. The flexibility afforded by different online spaces insecluding group articulations into cocoons of solidarity and support on the one hand, whilesimultaneously enjoining the support of external communities also works for minority groups whoneed spaces where they can build a community while challenging misrepresentations andmisunderstandings about them. The circuits, reach, and interpretations of online messages are unpredictable, and the postscan also be used by antagonists to reinforce prejudices, further segregate minorities, and nullifythe seriousness of their demands. Further, uncontrolled exchanges can expose the organizations’competing ideologies, covert operations, or internal conflicts. Still, their online articulationsprovide an important alternative and pose a challenge to hegemonic discourses and contribute tothe disruption of the structures of prejudice and discrimination, providing an entry point for newor alternative political articulations and voices. It is at such a juncture that counter-discourses canbe used as “a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy” (Foucault, 1980,p.101). The way in which such an engagement of discourse politics by marginal groupsforegrounds their own identity and facilitates the exercise of “acts of citizenship” can bedemonstrated by the ways in which these minority activists create their own screen memories,negotiate their political voice, construct their struggles, strategize, and define themselves in theonline platform. It is important to emphasize that all the groups found importance in their onlinespaces as a way of articulating their struggles through their own voices, and finding room forspeaking about themselves in a way that challenges the decades of prejudice andmisrepresentation that the majority or mass media has created. Finally, the strategic imperatives of minority groups’ hidden transcripts and infrapoliticsmake these appropriations of technology fundamentally different from the logics of politicalaction and exercise of citizenship in modern democracies. Because such political acts are covert, itshould not be discounted as these articulations communicate important meanings by which   26  
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