Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper examines the discursive construction of individual identities and group belonging among six Polish refugee women in an ongoing private group message conversation on Facebook, and in subsequent real-life encounters. The women met as teenagers in 1987 in Italy, and reconnected on Facebook in 2008 after living for years in Anglophone countries. The data comes from their Facebook conversation between 2012-2019, and from recordings of a 2017 reunion. Drawing on Reyes and Wortham’s (2015) approach to discourse analysis across speech events, I explore how the participants invoke and reinterpret shared memories of life in Italy and subsequent experiences of immigration to the United States, Canada, and Australia, as well as present-day life events, as they negotiate their current friendships and their individual roles within their small community. I focus on the way the women use the multimodal resources of the digital space – text, images, GIFs, hyperlinks – as well as Polish-English translanguaging, to construct those aspects of their identities that have become salient post-migration and as such have emerged in the online context of the Facebook group message: their roles as spouses, mothers, professionals, plurilingual languagers (Jørgensen 2005, 2008), and citizens of their current countries of residence. I analyze how this identity work is carried across successive online encounters throughout the ongoing conversation, as well as into the offline context of a real-life reunion.