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Technologies of racial formation: Asian-American online identities

Linh L Dich, University of Massachusetts Amherst


My dissertation is an ethnographic study of Asian-American users on the social network site, Xanga. Based on my analysis of online texts, responses to texts, and participants’ discussions of their writing motivations, my research strongly suggests that examining digital writing through participants’ complex and overlapping constructions of their community and public(s) can help the field reconsider digital writing as a site of Asian-American rhetoric and as a process of constructing and transforming racial identities and relations. In particular, I examine how community and public, as interconnected and shifting writing imaginaries on Xanga, afford Asian-American users on this site the opportunity to write, explore, and circulate their racial and ethnic identities for multiple purposes and various audiences. Race and ethnicity, as many scholars argue, are shifting and unstable concepts and experiences. Therefore, writing about race and ethnicity may be done best in environments that can accommodate complex and multiple acts of racial and ethnic formations. While my research demonstrates how participants “want to be heard” on their own terms, whom they imagine (or want to imagine) as listening/reading significantly informs their writing. That is, participants’ conceptions of their writing goals and their audiences are multiple and simultaneous—these racial and ethnic writing acts are often inflected by intersecting issues of gender, sexuality, class, culture, and intergenerational tensions—and, hence, traditional writing genres that limit such goals, audiences, and complexity do not always reflect how writers conceive of their own racial and ethnic experiences and their writing in the world. This study, then, examines Xanga as a flexible writing ecology that affords Asian-American users opportunities to compose their continuously transforming and complex racial and ethnic identities across multiple niches of representational sites and, specifically, in public and community spaces.

Subject Area

Asian American Studies|Web Studies|Rhetoric

Recommended Citation

Dich, Linh L, "Technologies of racial formation: Asian-American online identities" (2012). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3545918.