Forschungsprojekt: Die virtuelle zweite Generation

Konferenz: Transnationale Räume und Geschlecht
Universität Paderborn, 04.04.13

Urmila Goel

Heteronormativity and natio-ethno-cultural belongingness - (implicit) norms on the internet portal Indernet

The internet portal Indernet was founded in summer 2000 by 'Indians of the second generation' for 'Indians of the second generation'. It offered until about 2007an own 'space of the second generation' for young people, who were brought up in German-speaking Europe and were marked as Indians there. On the Indernet they could meet others, who were ascribed natio-ethno-culturally like themselves. With them they could discuss their relationship to India and Germany, Austria or Switzerland and from them they could obtain information about India. On the Indernet they were safe from racist exclusion and could develop a feeling of natio-ethno-cultural belongingness.

The production of a feeling of natio-ethno-cultural belongingness, however, was (unconsciously) linked to the (re)production of stereotypical gender roles and the heteronormative invisibilising of non-heterosexual desire. For example, the visual representations on the Indernet feature the attractive 'Indian woman' as a central topic.

In the paper the (re)production of heteronormativity and its consequences will be discussed using two empirical examples. Firstly, I will analyse the developments around the women's section of the Indernet. This was established by the male founders of the internet portal and new female editors were encouraged to take charge of it. On the basis of interviews and online observation I will discuss the way the female editors dealt with this as well as the importance of the women's section for the founders, editors and users. In this I will discuss both the (re)produced gender roles as well as their importance for the production of a natio-ethno-cultural community. Secondly, I will analyse the consequences of the implicit (re)production of the norm of heterosexual desire. Starting point for this is the interview with a gay user, who perceived some editorial contributions as homophobic and thus did not anymore feel comfortable in this virtual space. I feedbacked this to the editorial team and contributed an article on non-heterosexual desire in India. In the paper I will present and discuss material from the interviews and participant observation. My analysis will focus on the exclusionary consequences of heteronormativity (and less on explicit homophobia).

Urmila Goel, social and cultural anthropologist, currently writes a virtual ethnography of the Indernet. She analyses in particular, why this space has been created and used and which functions it fulfilled. Theoretically the work is based on critical internet, migration and racism studies as well as on gender and queer studies. More information can be found on

Urmila Goel, 2013