Award Date

2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Anthropology

Department

Anthropology

Advisor 1

William Jankowiak, Committee Chair

First Committee Member

Alan Simmons

Second Committee Member

Gary Palmer

Third Committee Member

Jamsheed Choksy

Graduate Faculty Representative

Robert Futrell

Number of Pages

234

Abstract

Zoroastrians today are a small but vibrant ethno-religious diaspora estimated at 130,000-258,000. They are members of the oldest monotheistic world religion originating in the Inner Asian steppes in approximately 1500 B.C. living as a religious minority in widely dispersed communities across the world. Increasingly they have turned to the Internet to discuss challenges of declining population, maintaining an ethno-religious identity, conversion, and intermarriage. The question grounding this research is how does this small ethno-religious minority maintain its boundaries and cohesion in the modern world? This study found that Zoroastrians maintain group boundaries and cohesion in the modern world, in part, through utilizing the Internet to provide resource sites, communities of affirmation, social networking resources, and through its function as a transmovement space facilitating face to face contact. It also explores the effectiveness of traditional ethnographic techniques applied to the Internet, or 'virtual' ethnography, as a primary data source for yielding an understanding of Zoroastrian inter- and intra-group dynamics within the continuing anthropological trend of multi-sited fieldwork. The following will summarize how some Zoroastrians have created and use over 100 websites, numerous email lists, YouTube videos, and the social networking site Z-book to shape contemporary Zoroastrian identity. It will examine how they translate Zoroastrian identity into a third diasporic wave into the virtual world and how the Internet has given greater visibility and 'voice' to minority opinions which, for the first time in over 3500 years, threaten to fragment the global Zoroastrian community.

Keywords

Computer mediated communication; Maintaining cultural identity; Online community; Online ethnography; Online religion; Religious minorities; Zoroastrian

Disciplines

Mass Communication | Religion

Language

English


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