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Identity and Community in the Weblogs of Muslim Women of Middle Easter n and North African Descent Living in the United States

TitleIdentity and Community in the Weblogs of Muslim Women of Middle Easter n and North African Descent Living in the United States
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2006
AuthorsSink, AD
Academic Departmentxxxx
Number of Pagesxxxx
Date Published2006
UniversityUniversity of Florida
CityGainesville, Florida

In recent years, media attention in the United States increasingly has turned to Arabs and Muslims. But few of the voices speaking are those of the people in question. Muslim women, especially, are seldom heard in the mainstream. However, many of them are speaking, telling their stories to audiences large and small through new technology on the Internet. Weblogs, online personal journals, allow anyone with access to the Internet to become a published author. These sites of dialogue and intimate revelation offer unique insights into their authors’ lives. In this thesis, in-depth qualitative textual analysis was used to examine the weblogs of six Muslim women of Middle Eastern or North African descent (MMENA) living in the United States and writing in English to understand how they use their blogs to negotiate identity and create community. Intercultural communication theories (specifically Ting-Toomey’s identity negotiation theory, Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, and Tajfel’s social identity theory), computer-mediated communication theories, and existing literature on Muslim women were all incorporated. The women addressed identity within several different areas, in each one displaying a “paradox of identity”: what Edward Said also called “plurality of vision” or “a constant contest between cultures.” They were aware of more than one culture (that of mainstream United States and the culture of their heritage), were fully part of neither of them, and fully felt the dissonances between them. This conflict was strengthened by their membership in a culture currently faced with prejudice from United States culture as a whole. Their blogs seemed to be a kind of identity workshop, a fluid space between the different aspects of who they are. Within them, they negotiated personal identity, gender identity, and cultural/ethnic identity. They built two kinds of community through their blogs: that which was based on face-to-face relationships and was an extension of everyday interactions, and that which was based primarily on computer-mediated interactions. The blogs all displayed, to some extent, a "sense of community" involving feelings of membership, the fulfillment of needs, and a shared emotional connection. This is the first study to address MMENA women in relation to their use of blogs. The paradox of identity the women experienced is important to understand in the context of today’s society in the US. It appears that outsiders’ perceptions of MMENA Americans have a great impact on these women, perhaps greater than they would have on women of different backgrounds, because of their high level of communalism and their status as female members of a non-dominant group within the US.