Personal Response to Digital Frontiers Roundtable: Michael Blair Page: 2
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At the "Social Media and Digital Communities: A Roundtable Discussion," Robert Emery,
Founding Board Member of The Dallas Way, spoke about how the group is using social media to
create an oral history archive of the Dallas GLBT community. In an interview with The Dallas
Voice he stated the impetus of the project as a "need to focus, (clarify), and collect our history to
strengthen our community and to be a source of inspiration for the young." He is likely
suggesting that the prevailing regional histories do not acknowledge the events and
accomplishments of the community he belongs to, and therefore there is a need to construct this
history as an addition or alternative to what is already available.
It may be insightful to look at this project in terms of Gurminder K. Bhambra's essay
"Culture, Identity and Rights: Challenging Contemporary Discourses of Belonging" in which he
discusses the processes of exclusion and inclusion that constitute cultural differences, and the
formulation of what he calls "narratives of belonging." The writing of history, in addition to
fostering a sense of belonging, is an inherently political act. And like many of the actions of the
GLBT community as well as other minority or marginalized groups, it is concerned with the
gaining or preserving of rights. Since Bhambra asserts that in today's globalized society the
question of rights are often framed in terms of culture and identity, we will look at how culture
and identity are in this case understood, and how these ideas operate in political discourse.
The GLBT community has an identity constructed around the similarities of its members
but defined in terms of a shared difference to another group. The "our history" of Emery's
statement is necessarily defined as distinct from "other" history, that of what Bhambra might
describe as a universalized majority. The writing of GLBT history as a process of
differentiation, then, figures into current political ideologies of culture. As Bhambra states,
"Increasingly, cultures have come to be seen not only in terms of the similarity of the individuals
that constitute them or the differences between this group of individuals and that group, but,
more precisely, through the processes of establishing similarities and differences." (Bhambra,
37) But Bhambra also points out that politics of culture are often based on the need to recognize
an "other", or a distinct group, in order to protect them and preserve their "otherness". The
problem is that by defining marginal groups by their difference from an imagined universal
majority, distinctions between "us" and "them", whether real or imagined, are perpetrated. What
is needed, according to Bhambra, is an altering of the "us/them" paradigm by constructing new
communities that cut across established identities and redefine those identities in terms other
Bhambra, Gurminder K. "Culture, Identity and Rights: Challenging Contemporary Discourses of
Belonging." In The Situated Politics of Belonging, Nira Yuval-Davis, Kalpana Kannabiran,
and Ulrike Vieten, 37. London: Sage Publications Ltd., 2006.
Emery, Robert. "Telling Stories of The Dallas Way: Finding LGBT History and Creating
Community Using Social Media." Presentation at the Digital Frontiers Conference at the
University of North Texas, September 21, 2012.
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Blair, Michael. Personal Response to Digital Frontiers Roundtable: Michael Blair, paper, September 21, 2012; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc109699/m1/2/: accessed February 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT College of Visual Arts + Design.