Diaspora Online

Diaspora Online: Identity Politics and Romanian Migrants

Ruxandra Trandafoiu
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 224
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Diaspora Online
    Book Description:

    After the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989, millions of Romanians emigrated in search of work and new experiences; they became engaged in an interrogation of what it meant to be Romanian in a united Europe and the globalized world. Their thoughts, feelings and hopes soon began to populate the virtual world of digital and mobile technologies. This book chronicles the online cultural and political expressions of the Romanian diaspora using websites based in Europe and North America. Through online exchanges, Romanians perform new types of citizenship, articulated from the margins of the political field. The politicization of their diasporic condition is manifested through written and public protests against discriminatory work legislation, mobilization, lobbying, cultural promotion and setting up associations and political parties that are proof of the gradual institutionalization of informal communications. Online discourse analysis, supplemented by interviews with migrants, poets and politicians involved in the process of defining new diasporic identities, provide the basis of this book, which defines the new cultural and political practices of the Romanian diaspora.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-944-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-20)

    This book chronicles the online cultural and political expressions of the Romanian diaspora, using websites based in Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The penultimate chapter reflects on the online Romanian presence in North America. A decade ago, the diasporic use of the then new communication technologies was still uncharted. However, I observed its first manifestation in 2000–2001, whilst working as a freelance interpreter for the Home Office, specifically the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND, which has now become the UK Border Agency) in Croydon.

    The IND operated an ‘Oakington List’, an inventory of countries whose single, young, male...

  5. PART I DEPARTURES: The ‘Great Escape’: Defining Emigration as Social Transition and ‘Natural Selection’
    • Chapter One ‘Land without Horizon’: The Post-communist Transition and Emigration as Political Act
      (pp. 23-42)

      Pământ fără orizont(Land without Horizon) is the title of a poem written by Adriana Vidroiu-Stanca (2008), an immigrant and a writer who now resides in Valencia, Spain. The images and sentiments encapsulated in this phrase would have been familiar to Romanians during the communist period and for many it remains as evocative as ever. This chapter sketches the post-1989 social and political contexts that gave rise to emigration and argues that initially, emigration was the result of stalled social mobility and a slow post-communist transition, and then acquired a self-feeding character, mingled with new cultural and life aspirations. Migration...

    • Chapter Two ‘Taking the Bull by the Horns’: Migrant Pathology and the Role of Diasporic Websites
      (pp. 43-60)

      This is how nineteen-year-old Anton started a new discussion thread onRomâni în UKin the summer of 2008. His tale spoke of homelessness, alienation and unfulfilled dreams and its potency was derived from its rawness. This was a story that was not told through the filter of time by someone who had battled and prevailed; it was an unfolding drama. After Romania’s EU accession in 2007, when a tourist visa was no longer required in the UK, many young Romanians tried their luck and remained in the country without the safety net of the coveted work permit. The gamble...

  6. PART II ARRIVALS: ‘Bread Tastes Better at Home’: The (Il)liberal Paradox of Western Societies
    • Chapter Three ‘Waking up among Strangers’: Translation, Adaptation, Participation
      (pp. 63-87)

      A few years ago, in an extended feature for theGuardian’s Saturday Review, Salman Rushdie drew an interesting parallel between artistic and cultural adaptations and concluded that the best adaptations were free, not rigid, ‘a genuine transaction’ between old and new. He warned that failure may await those who cling to the ‘old text’, wishing to preserve the old ways (Rushdie 2009: 2–4). His observations spoke about tensions and dilemmas, losses and gains, inherent in the process of cultural contact and cultural translation, which result in change, be it needed, wanted or resisted.

      The previous two chapters of this...

    • Chapter Four ‘Nobody Wants to Know Me’: Immigration Controls and Diasporic Associative Models
      (pp. 88-112)

      Since the Treaty of Rome in 1957, free movement has been at the heart of the European Union’s common market (Geddes 2003: 129). However, EU interventions in the field of migration policy have shifted from minimal involvement to more formal intergovernmental cooperation and, since the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1997, increased communitarization. However, because migration policies remain focused on immigration controls (Geddes 2003; Faist and Ette 2007), some academics argue that Europeanization has had little impact on the national politics of immigration (Faist and Ette 2007: 25). Whichever view you take, it is clear that since the 1980s Western democracies...

  7. PART III POLITICS: Diasporans Unite: Identity Politics and the Romanian Diaspora
    • Chapter Five ‘Brothers, We Need to Do Something!’: Online Activism and the Politicization of the Diaspora
      (pp. 115-132)

      After outlining the legal challenges faced by Romanian migrants in the European Union and exemplifying three associative diasporic models, it is time to return to examples of online politics. Diasporic cyber-politics can be best understood within the contexts outlined in the previous chapter. In particular, this chapter aims to highlight how legal migratory frameworks shape migrant demographics and, in turn, diasporic micropolitics and how the deficiencies of diasporic associative models are being addressed online, where opportunities exist to supplement and give new impulse to political activities.

      Spain has generally provided a more hospitable habitat for Romanians than Italy or the...

    • Chapter Six ‘Languishing in Purgatory’: The Politics of Location and Homeland
      (pp. 133-150)

      Diasporic theory has always been eager to discuss homeness and belonging, possibly because questions such as ‘Where are you from?’ and ‘Where is home?’ become an intrinsic part of life in the diaspora. Such basic questions lead to reexamining self-identity, the precursor to getting involved in diasporic micropolitics. Moreover, the same questions in relation to additional concerns such as location, boundary, distance and other spatial configurations become key elements in macropolitics: they define the relationship between the diaspora and its homeland, which is increasingly eager to include diasporas in strategic political games.

      This chapter begins by explaining Dante’s Purgatory metaphor,...

    • Chapter Seven ‘America, Romanian Land’: Diasporic Identity Politics in the United States and Canada
      (pp. 151-174)

      The introductory discussion of the state of current theory applicable to East–West migration within Europe at the start of this book raised two important points. First, that there is little specific theory derived from the phenomenon of post-1989 Eastern European migration towards Western Europe and North America; and second, that the comprehensive study of American immigrants, so far focused on Latin Americans, has something to teach us, though this should only be the starting point for elaborating a separate theoretical strand. Many authors agree. Salomone (2008) writes on the appropriateness of looking at the American experience in order to...

  8. PART IV SECOND LIFE: ‘Voir, c’est avoir à distance’
    • Chapter Eight Diaspora Online: Hierarchies and Rules
      (pp. 177-192)

      Previous chapters have followed Romanian migrants on their diasporic journeys, from symbolic distanciation to actual departure, from arrival to settlement, and finally, from reflection to activism. These journeys were made possible by diasporic websites that performed a multitude of roles. This final chapter represents an assessment of some of the most important functions of Romanian diasporic websites, as well as their future potential. Diasporic websites are characterized by developments taking place as a result of diasporic needs and the meanings invested in them over time. However, diasporic websites also evolve and will continue to evolve as a result of external...

  9. Conclusion The Story Is Still Being Written
    (pp. 193-198)

    As Antonia, one of the diasporans in the UK, said, referring to Romanian migrants, ‘their story is not over yet, their story is still being written’ (Antonia,Români în UK). What I have observed online amounts to a continuous process that is making and remaking a community with its own ideals, rules, conflicts and negotiations, as well as claims and actions. Migration is a political act and the existing ruptures at the level of the collective consciousness, as well as the perpetual reexamination of the performance of the migrant body, constantly reformat identity and rearticulate what being Romanian in the...

  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-210)
  11. Index
    (pp. 211-216)