Death of a King: Digital Ritual and Diaspora

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Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies





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In an age of social networking, transnational diasporic communities are actively participating in the flow of new media and technology, becoming increasingly interconnected and in closer cultural proximity. With the death of the Tongan King Tupou V, Tongans are communicating, (re)connecting, exchanging information and cultural practices as they turn not just towards Tonga but towards diasporic spaces of connecting. Tapu as a cultural practice deeply rooted and situated within Tongan social life is being renegotiated digitally as digital ritual. This paper adds to the concept of digital diaspora by including a digital ritual component that reconfigures the formation and contestation of social space and proposes a distinct sociospatial orientation to digital technology. The ritual literature is engaged as digital rituals are considered a sub-genre of Couldry's media rituals. Distinct indigenous cultural practices within diasporic communities are reconstituted and structured through digital ritual engagement and participation in digital space. The Moanan (Oceanian) understanding of time and space as ‘tā’ and ‘vā’ lends to a genealogical theorizing of digital diaspora and social networking, resulting in a distinct sociospatial inhabitation of the Internet. Facebook for Tongans represents broad swathes of social connections we might conceptualize as a digital, portable homeland, which contests and rearticulates social relations through digitality.

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