The Mumbai attacks and diasporic nationalism: BBC World Service online forums as conflict, contact and comfort zones

Gillespie, Marie; Herbert, David and Andersson, Matilda (2010). The Mumbai attacks and diasporic nationalism: BBC World Service online forums as conflict, contact and comfort zones. South Asian Diaspora, 2(1) pp. 109–129.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/19438190903542109

Abstract

The violent attacks on Mumbai in November 2008 occasioned intense political debates in the online forums of the BBC World Service (BBCWS). This article examines the 'Have Your Say' forums of BBC Urdu and BBC Hindi. Such public forums can be understood as 'contact zones' of debate between digitally empowered, potential 'world citizens', located both inside and outside their countries of identification (in this case Pakistan and India). BBCWS envisages such forums as facilitating a 'global conversation', which is its declared policy aim, but these particular forums are, in relation to the Mumbai attacks, sites of transnational affective bonding in terms of shared national identities, rather than sites of encounter and intellectual engagement with 'others'. Although diverse opinions are expressed, users appear to value the forums as offering them 'bonding' rather than 'bridging' forms of transnational social capital. The BBC's editorial framing and pre-moderation of debates contributes to this characteristic of the forums, in particular in the Hindi case. The process of selection, translation (hence editing), and the delay in publishing limits the potential for dialogue between users, but enhances the forum's function as a message board or 'public screen' onto which diasporic nationalist imaginings are projected.

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