Belonging and diaspora: The Chinese and the Internet

Loong Wong


The Internet has become a new global phenomenon, enlarging new democratic discourse and has helped to foster new empowerment and learning experiences. It has also been argued that the Internet can be used for social and political mobilisation. In the case of ethnic groups, the Internet can be used to create new communities or to re-create past knowledges, enabling the maintenance and cultural reproduction of "old" communities. In the case of the Chinese community, it has been pointed out that the Internet while has been useful in creating a Chinese presence, it nonetheless privileges essentialism and communal hegemony. This has been specifically the point made by some cultural theorists. In their study of the Chinese and Chinese-ness, cultural studies theorists have criticised the hegemonic formation implicit in discussions of the Chinese. They point out that the search by diasporic Chinese for an authentic Chinese meaning is inherently flawed and futile. In deconstructing the notion of Chinese and Chinese-ness, they argue that identities are contingent, often multiple and evolving. This paper takes seriously this criticism proffered by cultural theorists. It seeks to examine and locate their claims in the context of the relationship between diasporic politics, communalism and the Internet. The paper starts with a brief overview of the Chinese diaspora; it next examines the relationship between the new information and communication technologies and the Chinese diaspora. It will also look at how this new technology is shaping and changing the way Chinese diasporic lives are experienced. In so doing, it examines the claims advanced by cultural theorists, in particular their analysis of identity and its relationship with diasporic politics and essentialism.

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