Do I look white? : Creating community in online safe spaces for racialized youth

Abstract: This dissertation examines identity performances amongst racialized youth in online ‘safe spaces’. Using a netnography-inspired approach to study communities online, the study employs decolonial and narrative theories to analyse identity performances through everyday interaction. During the 2010s, along with the increased use of social media, different kinds of safe spaces were created online. This study centres on two such safe spaces on Instagram which operate under ‘separatist guidelines’ through which only racialized people are allowed to participate, while simultaneously being open and accessible to anyone. In three analytical chapters, the dissertation focuses on the creation, negotiation, and challenging of boundaries and community in the discussion threads. Additionally, the dissertation focuses on the notion of safe spaces and how this ‘safety’ is performed by the participants. In a fourth chapter, the study examines editorials and op-eds in Swedish news press debates on identity politics and safe spaces published leading up to and during the time of data collection from the safe spaces. By analysing news media debates, the study seeks to capture contemporary ideas not only of ethnicity, race, and belonging in the society wherein the studied spaces operate, but also illustrate anti-racist positions and cultural ideals.The study finds that these safe spaces are complex, heterogeneous and paradoxical spaces, where ‘safety’ is constructed through inclusion and exclusion. In order to feel safe to some, others must be excluded, but the spaces must simultaneously be constructed as inclusive spaces where critical debates can take place. In combining narrative analysis and a small stories approach with decolonial and affect theories, the study also makes theoretical contributions. By combining these perspectives, the study examines how affect can be employed as a linguistic resource in constructing reliable and convincing narratives, and how the ‘smallness’ of interaction draws on both local narratives and racial stories and global master narratives of the colonial order.