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Radio Romani Mahala: Romani identities and languages in a virtual space. In Alietti, A., Olivera, M. & Riniolo, V. (2015) Virtual citizenship? Roma communities, inclusion policies, participation and ICT tools. Milan: MacGraw-Hill Education

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This article looks at Radio Romani Mahala, an on-line radio hosting a live chat-room catering for the recently diasporised Roma community from Mitrovica, Kosovo. Ethnographic and discourse analytical approaches will show how the site creators
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  Virtual Citizenship? Roma communities,Inclusion Policies,Participation and ICT Tools Vi  r  t  u al    C i   t i  z en s h i   p?  R  om a c omm uni   t i   e s  ,I  n cl   u s i   onP  ol  i   ci   e s  ,P  ar  t i   ci   p a t i   on an d I   C T T  o ol   s  Edited by Alfredo Alietti, Martin Olivera and Veronica Riniolo A.Al  i   e t  t i  •  M. Ol  i  v er  a• V.R i  ni   ol   oE  d i   t  e d  b  y  Virtual Citizenship? Roma communities,Inclusion Policies,Participation and ICT Tools Edited by Alfredo Alietti, Martin Olivera and Veronica Riniolo  Copyright © 2015 McGraw-Hill Education (Italy), S.r.l. Via Ripamonti, 89 – 20141 MilanoI diritti di traduzione, di riproduzione, di memorizzazione elettronica e di adattamento riservati per tutti i Paesi.Date le caratteristiche intrinseche di Internet, l’Editore non è responsabile per eventuali variazioni negli indirizzi e nei contenuti dei siti Internet riportati. Nomi e marchi citati nel testo sono generalmente depositati o registrati dalle rispettive case produttrici.Publisher: Paolo RoncoroniAcquisition Editor: Daniele BonannoProduzione: Donatella GiulianiStampa: Prontostampa, Verdellino Zingonia (Bergamo)ISBN 978-88-386-7493-8Printed in Italy    Radio Roma Mahala: Romani identities and languages in a virtual space 97 2 Radio Romani Mahala: Romani identities and languages in a virtual space  by     Vi   tor Leggio 2.1 Introduction Engagement with the Internet has often offered diasporic subjects a chance to ex- press their voice and challenge stereotyping and marginalizing discourses about them propagated by traditional media. In the resulting discursive negotiations a crucial role in portraying diasporic identities is often played by the performative use of the multilingual repertoires accessible to diasporic subjects. As Roma can be regarded as a diaspora and they increasingly engage with the Internet, questions arise concerning their usage of the medium: are they taking advantage of the possibilities it offers? And if yes, how? Considering the difficulties of looking at the whole of the Romani population as a unified diaspora, I will focus on a recently re-diasporised community srci-nating from Mitrovica, Kosovo. The representational choices made by a group of musicians from the community in creating and running  Radio Romani Mahala (RRM), an on-line radio, are analysed through an ethnographic approach. The subtle blending of images and multilingual texts in the homepage and the musical repertoire being broadcasted indexically point at the self-perceived identities of the creators of the radio and their desired audience. The description of the website will provide a starting point for the analysis of the interactions taking place on the chat hosted by the site. Particular attention will be paid to the discourses produced by the chat users, their language choices and the switches and mixing they perform. The analysis will show a continuity  between the identities represented by the site creators and those performed by the site users. Interestingly, the representational content of such performances is often not acknowledged by the users who rather seem more interested in recreating the conviviality of the homeland.  98   Section 2 - Chapter 2 I will argue that, free from the constraints of more traditional media, the site creators achieved to represent a cosmopolitan dimension they consider central to the identities of the Mitrovica Roma. This cosmopolitan dimension resonates with the everyday practices of users who actually embed it in their own identity per-formances. This results in extremely complex linguistic interactions which, com- bined with the non-essentialising representation provided by the website and the actual layered identities performed by users, keeps outsiders away from RRM. In such a context the representational content of interactions is thus downplayed while the joint performance of conviviality allows users to create a new home-land. These findings suggests it is crucial to complement our analysis of ‘confron-tational’ on-line spaces used by diasporas with the more private ones in which more mundane, but yet crucially important identity performances can take place. 2.2 Diasporas on the Internet During the last two decades, the Internet has proved to be a favourite medium among many diasporas as it helped them to remain in touch with their homeland  by widening the reach of traditional mass media (Sinclair & Cunningham, 2000). Furthermore, various other Internet tools such as search engines, private e-mails, newsgroups, forums, chats and websites produced by diaspora members are also largely employed.  1 Mitra notes how users of diasporic webspaces re-establish severed familiar re-lationship and constantly debate and redefine their identities. As opposed to tradi-tional media that have often spoken for and about diasporic subjects in stereotypi-cal ways, Mitra notes how the Internet is redesigning the patterns of ownership of means of message production. This change offers diasporas the chance to voice their opinion and challenge dominant discourses about them (Mitra, 1997; 2001; 2003). Furthermore, as noted by Qiu (2003) many diasporic websites make a point of stimulating community awareness. Diasporic websites, “by mobilising such shared values as culture, national identity and community awareness” (Qiu 2003: 155) provide safe and comfortable spaces for diasporic people to ‘hang out’, share their experiences and thus create and maintain virtual communities. Considering all these elements, it appears that diasporic virtual communities and the spaces they inhabit are characterized by the active production of discourse and “the pro-ductive construction of new hybrid identities and cultures through the […] pro-cess of maintenance and negotiation between […] home and host culture” (Sinclair, Cunningham, 2000: 15). Various other authors have also noted how diasporic webspaces are character-ised by the usage of both English and heritage languages and how language 1  As this research was planned and started before the explosion in popularity of social networks no literature about their usage by diasporas was still available. The papers in the special issue of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies ‘Migration and the Internet: Social Networking and Diasporas’ (38/9, November 2012) deal with the topic.
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