Digitizing ethnonational identities : multimediatic representations of Puerto Rican soldiers




Avilés Santiago, Manuel Gerardo

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The silence and invisibility of Puerto Rican soldiers in fictional and non-fictional representations of U.S. Wars has motivated me to look for alternative spaces in which these unaccounted voices and images are currently being produced, stored, circulated, and memorialized. Within this framework, my dissertation explores the self-representation of Puerto Rican servicemen and women in social networking sites (SNS), (i.e. as MySpace and Facebook), in user-generated content (UGC) platforms, (i.e. YouTube), and also in web memorials. I am interested in understanding how Puerto Rican soldiers self-represent their ethnonational identity online within the overlapping of second-class citizenship. The theoretical framework proposed for this research will apply theories such as 1) articulation; 2) the notion of contact zone; and 3) colonial/racial subjectivities. To complete this goal, my research method draws on online ethnography, textual, and critical discourse analysis. Firstly, I will discuss the limited repertoire of images of Puerto Rican soldiers in TV and film. My argument is that, besides the massive omission of this history, the images and motifs that do escape de facto social censorship will be in conversation with the self-representations. The second chapter is the result of four years of the process of online ethnography on which I analyze the instances of self-representation of Puerto Rican soldiers in SNS. My interest was seeing how those spaces were inflected by an ethnonational subjectivity. The third chapter explores the ways Puerto Rican soldiers, embedded in mash-up cultures, uses UGCs platforms to upload videos that transform the soldiers from passive consumers of images to active producers of content, which tend to disrupt dominant narratives of power. The last chapter explores the emergence of web memorials dedicated to the Puerto Rican soldiers. My main argument is that these instances of self- representation in online spaces are in conversation with the moments of silences and misrepresentations of Puerto Rican soldiers in traditional media, but also have become acts of enunciation in which the particular Puerto Ricanness of the Puerto Rican soldier is affirmed within complex, layered histories of imperialism, racism, heterosexism, and second-class citizenship.



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