Posted to the Ethnos Project by on December 14th, 2013

This thesis examines contemporary constructions of collective indigenous identity. It specifically focuses on the offline and online interactions among the members of Bibaknets, an online community for indigenous peoples from the highlands of the Cordillera Region, Philippines. The study explores the relational and positional nature of collective indigenous identity as Cordillerans attempt to resolve the tensions between their experiences of marginalisation and their goal for empowerment. Drawing upon Michel Foucault’s concept of governmentality, the thesis critically analyses the processes of Cordilleran collective identity construction which are inscribed in power relations not only between highlanders and the dominant population but also among themselves. On the one hand, members are motivated to join and participate in Bibaknets discussions as a forum for Cordillerans. On the other hand, such participation is constrained by some members who direct the discussions and consequently define the membership of the forum.

Borrowing from Cruikshank’s ‘technologies of citizenship’ (1999), the study argues that Cordillerans’ efforts to construct their indigenous identity could be described as ‘technologies of indigeneity’. In their pursuit for autonomy and subjectivity, Cordillerans govern their own conduct through their online identity narratives. In doing so, members adopt ‘internal and voluntary relations of rule’ (Cruikshank 1999: 4) in their efforts to discuss, clarify and protect their highland identity which both enable and constrain the emergence of alternative narratives on Bibaknets. The construction of their identity narratives are not confined to their marginalisation by colonisers and the nation-state but also by the unequal power relations among themselves. The positional and strategic nature of Cordillera identity construction is made visible by the self-authored narratives of Bibaknets members. As an online community, Bibaknets is a translocal (Appadurai 1995) site of mediation that enable members to re-interpret and reconstruct individually and collectively socio-political spaces and realities.

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