Essay on Belonging and Difference in Imagined Communities

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Belonging and Difference in Imagined Communities

Much recent theory has been concerned with defining and examining 'new media': the forms of communication and mediation that have arisen through advances in electronics and digital technologies. These new media forms and the speed of their dissemination are paralleled by faster transportation and the movement and subsequent settlement of peoples across the globe in what has come to be called 'diaspora'. The situation is such that many of the old boundaries and barriers by which nations defined themselves have become less certain, challenged by the increasing power of people to move across them whether literally or figuratively. Diaspora has become a term in academic parlance that is
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Ways of using such technologies, often quite distinct from official channels or forms of reception, have developed amongst diasporic communities, becoming or adopting technologised social rituals of their own. The metaphor of space, so often used in relation to the internet, is a central concern for diasporic peoples. It is little surprise, then, that the world wide web is an important development for transnational cultures. The 'space' of the digital world is mutable and customisable, available for various uses and easily able to overcome the vagaries of distance. Benedict Anderson's handle of 'imagined communities' seems extremely useful in describing such groups and their interaction with information technology.

However, such tactics, rituals and uses are not unique to subjects that are diasporic in an ethnic or racial sense. Fan culture, where a sense of community is generated around the reception and remediation of cultural texts, has developed its own extremely complex systems of belonging. Fandom is variegated not only along the obvious lines of which texts are appreciated and appropriated by a particular group, but also by the medium in which the text is expressed, the specificities of translation, the location of the fans, the engagement with or collection of peripheral merchandise and the particular historical narratives
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