Tajikistan's Diasporic Transnational Social Movements: Coalescence and Cooption

Marintha Miles

Advisor: Roger N Lancaster, PhD, Cultural Studies Program

Committee Members: Eric McGlinchey, Benjamin Gatling

Horizon Hall, #3225
May 09, 2023, 02:00 PM to 04:00 PM


This dissertation examines the intersection of transnational social movements and internet activism. Benedict’s Anderson’s foundational theory of imagined communities is recaptured in the internet age as diasporas connect and reconnect, reifying and reimagining the community through social media. Continuous communication between Tajikistan’s large diaspora in Russia is facilitated through information and communication technology (ICT). Families communicate via cell phone, internet, Skype, Viber, Telegram, or WhatsApp and provide a flow of income to extended family through ICT. ‘Real life’ is not erased, but life online and offline merge. Social remittances, explained by Peggy Levitt as “the ideas, behaviors, identities and social capital that flow from receiving-to-sending communities,” circulate among diaspora groups and back home, creating transnational networks. This includes internet activism which grows out of social media platforms. Margaret E. Keck and Kathryn Sikkink previously examined transnational activism and international systems, discovering that transnational networks caused shifts in state behavior in favor of human rights and social movements. The development of digital platforms has accelerated the ability of transnational activists to build connections and enabled them to harness or create political opportunities. Tajikistan’s transnational diasporic groups are emboldened by social media platforms to create a critical public sphere for journalists, activists, civil society, and social movements. Morozov, Kendzior, and Tufekci, however, warn against the assumption of social media as a panacea to authoritarianism. Social media is a tool that can be manipulated and weaponized. I explore how Tajikistan’s transnational activists leverage ICT, harnessing new repertoires of action and the employment of multi-media and social media strategies. I find that contrary to Keck and Sikkink’s examination, ICT causes fragmentation of Tajikistan’s civil society and social movements. I reexamine Benedict Anderson’s theory of imagined communities and apply the possibility of an unimagined community, which Callan explains as transnational dissent outside of the confines of spatial community—a simulation of community via digital technology. This project contributes to a Cultural Studies understanding of how ICT, especially social media, is utilized in cultural production for activism by diaspora groups, as well as to an understanding of social movements and their impacts in Eurasia.