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New identity politics on social media among Serbian Londoners

Public lecture by

  • Sanja Vico, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Eric Gordy, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London

Date: 25 March 2020,
Time: 6.30pm
Location: Goldsmiths University of London, Richard Hoggart Building 342a
Booking information: Tickets are free. You need to RSVP, Book now

In the age when identity politics is being studied on various grounds, yet very little is known about the lives and experiences of the subjects on the ‘semi-periphery’ – the ones who are neither part of the developed West, nor of developing countries and former colonies in the Global South, but those who occupy the space ‘in-between’. Studies to date have demonstrated that due to this position of ‘in-betweenness’, sometimes coupled with the experience of discrimination or negative stereotyping, the semi-peripheral position is often fraught with chronic self-insecurity. On the other hand, most studies of identity politics or politics of differences have looked at subcultures and organised attempts to challenge power and dominant representations, and thereby to redefine identities and one’s position in society. Thus, it has not been explored sufficiently if and how everyday spontaneous tactics of “blending in” and “standing out” can constitute what has been thought of as identity politics. In her lecture, Dr Vico draws our attention to ordinary unremarkable communication practices of the subjects from the semi-periphery living in a global city – namely, Serbian Londoners. She argues that these almost invisible practices are often manifestations of identity politics aimed at reconstructing their national identity and consequently improving their position in society.

In her lecture, Dr Vico draws an ethnographic study of digital communication practices of Serbian Londoners, to identify a new form of subtle spontaneous identity politics on social media. This form of identity politics seeks to reassert this group’s national identity and presents it as both an “exotic” difference and “cosmopolitan”, i.e. the one that belongs to the world. In her lecture, she combines the analysis of social media affordances as well as diverse social factors, including users’ agency, to look at communication practices of this specific group on social media. As Dr Vico argues, this form of identity politics has been brought about by social surveillance of the social media, the context of London as a global city, and the particular socio-historical circumstances that shaped the identity of the observed community. Dr Vico shows that the identity politics of the Serbian Londoners is normatively ambivalent, representing, on the one hand, a source of empowerment, and, tending, on the other hand, to commodify their difference.