Echoes of Conflict and Solidarity in Cyberspace: How Social Media Shapes Immigrant Identity-Making

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Thursday, November 29th, 2018

Thursday, November 29, 201812:00PM - 2:00PM208N, North House, 1 Devonshire Place
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Although migration scholarship has long theorized how immigrants form new identities and build communities in the hostland, its foundational frameworks have thus far focused largely on the contexts of the sending and receiving countries. Yet, when immigrants arrive from one society to settle in another, their interactions with various immigrant and native groups produce contact across diverse cultures—not just of the society from which they come and to which they now live, but also of societies in faraway foreign lands to which they have never traveled. These ties to places that are neither the immigrants’ homeland nor hostland are facilitated by social media and
24/7 cable news, invoking collective identities that cut across borders and causing spillover effects of global events that shape both how others view immigrants and how immigrants view themselves. Using ethnographic data and Facebook activities of South Asian Muslim Americans in California during the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, I trace how: 1) social media moderates the impact of global political events and facilitate feelings of solidarity by filtering who, where, and what matters to the host society and thereby the immigrants in it; and 2) how the immigrants themselves use social media to express and perform feelings of solidarity with peoples in distant foreign lands as they enmesh themselves into the politics of the hostland. Overall, these findings highlight the need to analyze immigrant identity-making within a broader framework that can encompass geopolitics not just in the immigrant sending and receiving countries, but also beyond.

Speaker bio:
Tahseen Shams is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Toronto. Her research interests are in the areas of international migration, globalization, race/ethnicity, nationalism, and religion.
Broadly, she studies how transnational, global forms of inequality intersect with race and ethnicity to affect immigrant groups, particularly those coming from Muslim-majority countries to the United States and Canada. Her work has received funding from the National Science Foundation and has produced publications in Sociological Forum and Ethnic and Racial Studies among others. Currently, she is writing a book on how global geopolitics shapes Muslim American and immigrant identities. She is also pursuing two separate but related research
projects: one on Muslim American panethnicity, and the other on how U.S. sociopolitics surrounding Islam and Muslims affects the identity-work of Muslim immigrants in Canada.


Momo Podolsky


Tahseen Shams
Assistant Professor of Sociology at University of Toronto

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