Virtual (Br)Others and (Re)Sisters: Authentic Black Fraternity and Sorority Identity on the Internet
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 37, No. 5, pp. 528-560, October 2008
34 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2009
Date Written: October 8
Recently, the Internet has become the focus of immense speculation regarding the social construction of identity and cultural “authenticity.” However, examinations of virtual communities such as blogs, multiuser domains, and chat rooms have largely ignored nonwhite, especially African American, virtual communities (VCs). Through participant observation, content analysis, and personal interviews, this article analyzes a VC dedicated to members of African American fraternities and sororities, generally referred to as black Greek letter organizations (BGLOs). Findings show that BGLO virtual authenticity is accomplished via (1) the making of “brothers” and “others” based on symbolic boundaries of exclusion and inclusion and (2) the deployment of themes of resistance based on emotions of both sufferance and success. Implications suggest that interrogations of how virtuality constrains and enables processes of “authentic” racial identity formation as well as configurations of racist narratives and ideologies can yield added insights regarding the raced character of structure/agency, symbolic boundaries, and the social use of emotions.
Keywords: racial identity, Internet, Greek (fraternity and sorority), symbolic boundaries, emotions
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