Accepted paper:

Visual media and ethnicity in Swiss-Kosovarian youth culture: digital communication, self-imaging and the site of "national identity"


Christian Ritter (ETH Zurich and University of Zurich)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses the practices of image production and digital communication trough which Swiss youth with a Kosovar background appropriate symbols and narratives from national Albanian discourses in their construction and negotiation of social and cultural "identities" on the WWW.

Paper long abstract:

With the spread of digital camera technology and ICT, new actors have become visible with one's own images in the public of the WWW. These new "media amateurs" also include young people of Albanian background, whose parents have emigrated to Switzerland. On social networks such as Facebook and YouTube numerous images and videos can be found, in which youth present themselves with national Albanian and Kosovar symbols. Considering the rather strong national discourses in former Yugoslavian countries on the one hand, the socio-political debates in Switzerland on the "integration" of young Kosovo Albanians on the other, the question arises of how this (aesthetic) emergence of ethno-nationalism in hybrid youth cultural environments can be characterized. The practices of imagination, construction and communication of ethnicity observable on the social web go beyond the dichotomy of an implicitly "banal" and explicitly "hot" nationalism (Billig 1995): From a cultural studies perspective, this young peoples appropriation of symbols, myths and narratives from national Albanian discourses in online communication can be understood as guided by their need to negotiate shared experiences of cultural and social stigmatization. Against this background, the paper focuses on the ambivalent function of such "images of belonging". Based on an ongoing study it will argue, a) how youth cultural actors acquire social "agency" in the context of migration and how it is framed by ICT and camera technology and b) how traditional concepts of culture are undermined, but also reformulated under the influence of both cultural and technical delimitation.

panel Mig003
Imaginaries of migration: identity and belonging