Media and Identity in the Margins: The Garifuna Response to Social Media

Jared Johnson, Clark Callahan


The purpose of this research is to understand how social media is affecting the identities of indigenous cultures. Using natives of Central America with ancestral roots in Africa as research subjects, this research explores how the Garifuna culture experiences social media and how these media influence cultural perceptions. Using a grounded theory approach, in-depth interviews were conducted in the United States and Honduras. The results of those interviews indicate that media can aid individuals within the Garifuna culture to reconcile their three identities (Black, Hispanic, and American) and thereby form a stronger sense of self.  This research suggests that new media might create a type of triple consciousness within cultural perception.


double consciousness, Garifuna, adaptation, identity

Full Text:



Abraham, A. (2010). Negotiating boundaries: Arab-American poetry and the dilemmas of dual identity. Language in India, 10(6), 123–136.

Allen, J., & Hamnett, C. (eds) (1995). A shrinking world? Global uneveness and inequality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Allison, M., & Emmers-Sommer, T. (2011). Beyond individualism-collectivism and conflict style: Considering acculturation and media use. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 40, 135–152.

Appadurai, A. (1996). Modernity at large. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press.

Arnett, J. J. (2002). The psychology of globalization. American Psychologist, 57, 774-783.

Barker, V., & Ota, H. (2011). Mixi Diary versus Facebook photos: Social networking site use Among Japanese and Caucasian American females. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 40(1), 39–63.

Baron, N. S., & Segerstad, Y. A. F. (2010). Cross-cultural patterns in mobile-phone use: Public Space and reachability in Sweden, the USA and Japan. New Media & Society, 12, 13–34.

Bisel, R. S., & Arterburn, E. N. (2012). Making sense of organizational members’ silence: A sense-making resource model. Communication Research Reports, 29(3), 217-22.

Bonner, D. (2001). Garifuna children’s language shame: Ethnic stereotypes, national affiliation, and transnational immigration as factors of language choice in southern Belize. Language and Society, 30, 81–96.

Callahan, C., Robinson, T., & Trachmann, K-A. (2011, September). Using Q-methodology in cultural adaptation research. Paper presented and the Q-Conference annual convention, September 7-10.

Campbell, S. W. (2007). A cross-cultural comparison of perceptions and uses of mobile Telephony. New Media & Society, 9, 343–36.

Caspi, D., Adoni, H., Cohen, H., & Elias, N. (2002). The red, the white and the blue. International Journal of Communication Studies, 64, 537–556.

Charmaz, K. (2000). Grounded theory: Objectivist and constructivist methods. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative research (2nd ed., pp. 509–535). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Corbin, J. & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded Theory Research: Procedures, Canons, and Evaluative Criteria. Qualitative Sociology, 13, 3–20.

Dey, I. (1993). Creating categories. Qualitative data analysis (pp. 94–112). London: Routledge.

Du Bois, W. E. B. (1903). The Souls of Black Folk. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

England, S. (1999). Negotiating race and place in the Garifuna diaspora: Identity

formation and transnational grassroots politics in New York City and Honduras. Identities, 6(1), 5-53.

Foster, M. (2008). The new media age gives us power: It’s time to create content that matters. Advertising Age, 79, 20.

Friedman, T. (2005). The world is flat. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Friedman, T. (2007). The world is flat 3.0: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux.

Fulk, J., & Boyd, B. (1991). Emerging theories of communication in organizations. Journal of Management, 17, 407–447.

Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago, IL: Aldine.

Green, O. (1998). The “dügü” ritual of the Garinagu of Belize: Reinforcing values of society through music and spirit possession. Black Music Research Journal, 18, 167–181.

González, N. (1998). Sojourners of the Caribbean: Ethnogenesis and ethnohistory of the Garifuna. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.

Jimenez, A. (2011). Academic websites and minority portrayal: A content analysis. Unpublished master’s thesis. Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

Johnson, J. & Callahan, C. (2013). Social media and community: Helping strengthen Garifuna culture and language. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 42, 319-339.

Khan, M. A., & Kahn, R. M. (2007). Relationship between demographic characteristics of international students and their mass media use in intercontextual adaptation. Journal of Development Communication, 18, 29-40.

Kramer, E. M. (1993). Understanding co-constitutional genesis. Integrative Explorations: Journal of Culture and Consciousness, 1(1), 40-46.

Kramer, E. (1995). A brief hermeneutic of the co-constitution of nature and culture in the west including some contemporary consequences. History of European Ideas, 20, 1-3 (Part III), 649-659.

Kramer, E. M. (2012). Dimensional accrual and dissociation: An introduction. In J. Grace (Ed.), Comparative cultures and civilizations (Vol. 3). (pp. 123-184). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton.

Kramer, E. M., Callahan, C., & Zuckerman, D. (2012). Intercultural communication and global integration. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt.

Laugharne, J. (2007). Language use and language attitudes in Wales. In D. Lasagabaster & Á. Huguet (Eds.), Multilingualism in European bilingual contexts (p. 208-233). Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters.

Lévy, P. (2000). Kyberkultura. Prague: Karolinum.

Leonardi, P. (2003). Problematizing “new media”: Culturally based perceptions of cell phones, computers, and the Internet among United States Latinos. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 20, 160–179.

Lin, J., Peng, W., Kim, M., Kim, S., & LaRose, R. (2012). Social networking and adjustments among international students. New Media & Society, 14, 421–440.

Lindlof, T. R., & Taylor, B. C. (2011). Qualitative communication research methods (3rd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Miglietta, A., & Tartaglia, S. (2009). The influence of length of stay, linguistic competence, and meida exposure in immigrant’s adaptation. Cross-contextual Research, 43, 46-61.

Mitchell, D. (1995). There’s no such thing as culture: Toward a reconceptualization of the idea of culture within geography. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 20, 102-116.

Moon, S., & Park, C. (2007). Media effects on acculturation and biculturalism: A case study of Korean immigrants in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. Mass Communications & Society, 10, 319–343.

Moore, T. (2005). A Fanonian perspective on double consciousness. Journal of Black Studies, 35, 751–762.

Mumford, L. (1974). The pentagon of power: The myth of the machine. New York, NY: MJF Books.

Ong, W. J. (1980). Literacy and orality in our times. Journal of Communication, 30(1), 197-204.

Raman, P., & Harwood, J. (2008). Acculturation of Asian Indian sojourners in America: Application of the cultivation framework. Southern Communication Journal, 73, 295–311.

Rawls, A. (2000). “Race” as an interaction order phenomenon: W. E. B. Du Bois’s “double consciousness” thesis revisited. Sociological Theory, 18, 241–274.

Ross Altarac, S. (2008). Globalization of media: What’s adaptation got to do with it? Conference paper presented at the annual convention of the National Communication Association, San Diego, CA.

Segev, E., Ahituv, N., & Barzilai-Nahon, K. (2007). Mapping diversities and tracing trends of cultural homogeneity/heterogeneity in cyberspace. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 1269-1297.

Scott, C.R., Quinn, L., Timmerman, C.E., & Garrett., D.M. (1998). Ironic uses of group communication technology: Evidence from meeting transcripts and interviews with group decision support system users. Communication Quarterly, 46, 353–374.

Singh, N., Lehnert, K., & Bostick, K. (2010). Global social media usage and the language factor. Lionbridge and Executive Education in Web Globalization, John Cook School of Business, St. Louis University. Waltham, MA: Lionbridge.

Shu-Chuan, C., & Sejung Marina, C. (2011). Electronic word-of-mouth in social networking sites: A cross-cultural study of the United States and China. Journal of Global Marketing, 24, 263–281.

Shuter, R. (2012). Intercultural new media studies: The next frontier in intercultural communication. Journal of Intercultural Communication Research, 3, 219–237.

Valenzuela, S., & McCombs, M. (2009). The agenda-setting role of the news media. In D. W. Stacks & M. B. Salwen (Eds.), An integrated approach to communication theory and research (2nd ed., pp. 90-105). New York: Taylor and Francis.

Wilson, K. (1999). Towards a discursive theory of racial identity: The Souls of Black Folk as a response to nineteenth-century biological determinism. Western Journal of Communication, 63, 193–215.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Based at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, USA, The Journal of Social Media in Society is sponsored by the Colleges of Liberal and Fine Arts, Education, Business Administration, and Graduate Studies.