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Digital passages. Moroccan-Dutch youths performing diaspora, gender and youth cultural identities across digital space

By K.H.A. Leurs

Abstract

Digital Passages considers how the relations between gender, diaspora and youth culture are digitally articulated by Moroccan-Dutch youths between the age of 12 and 18 years old. Combining new media, gender and postcolonial theory, a transdisciplinary analysis is carried out of a young ethnic-minority population whose contribution to digital culture was undertheorized. In particular I explored how Moroccan-Dutch youths appropriate digital spaces in order to convey their belongings across multiple axes of identification such as gender, sexuality, diaspora, religion and youth-culture. The study was conducted in the context of Wired Up, a research project funded by a Utrecht University High Potential grant, bringing together humanities and social science scholars to analyze digital media use among migrant youths. Together with other Wired Up researchers, a large-scale survey was developed. 1408 students in seven secondary schools completed this survey. Furthermore, in-depth interviews were carried out with a group of 43 Moroccan-Dutch youths, 21 girls and 22 boys, between the age of 12 and 18 years old. Online, narratives were gathered through participant observation. From the survey I learned that Moroccan-Dutch youths consider online discussion forums, instant messaging (IM), online social networking sites (SNSs) and video sharing platforms most important. These four types of digital space were analyzed on a case-study basis. Survey data showed computer ownership and Internet access is widespread among Moroccan-Dutch youths, however I revealed that digital divides go beyond ownership and access. Exploring how offline exclusionary mechanisms travel online and establish new digital divides, I unraveled how technological decisions and mainstream user preferences contribute to medium-specific spatial hierarchies. The focus was in fact on the ways in which hierarchies are subverted from below and how the medium-specificity of each of the four applications studied informs these processes differently. An inventory was made of space invader strategies Moroccan-Dutch youths employ to cope with multiple forms of inequality. With the title Digital Passages, I referred not only to their navigation across bordered digital spaces, but also capture the digitization of key identity formation processes such as voice, romance, affectivity and the negotiation of coming-of-age, gender, diaspora, generational, religious and youth cultural expectations. Rather than a straightforward continuation of migrant cultural legacies the informants are actively transforming those legacies in ways that resonate with the dominant local and global youth cultures in which they grow up. My cartography of Moroccan-Dutch youths’ multi-spatial digital identity performativity provides a history of the present full of promises but also full of personal experiences of struggle. The relationship between profit-driven digital templates and user cultures and conveying belonging across multiple axes of identification remains intricate and complex. At certain points, the private/public and online/offline world overlap or augment one another and at others they collide, providing room for re-signification. The boys and girls I interviewed are confronted with various aspects of Dutch multicultural society: while they are often considered the other, in their everyday digital convivial encounters they nevertheless also establish and connect new passages between their Dutch, Moroccan-Dutch, Muslim, gender, diaspora and youth cultural belongings

Topics: Specialized histories (international relations, law), Literary theory, analysis and criticism, Culturele activiteiten, Overig maatschappelijk onderzoek
Publisher: Utrecht University
Year: 2012
OAI identifier: oai:dspace.library.uu.nl:1874/242468
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