Transformations of Diasporic Heritage Identities in Canada during the Covid-19 Pandemic: From Land-based Communities to Language-based Global Cyberspora | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online


Community-based heritage language (HL) schools play an important role in identity-building of diasporic communities. This study based on twenty-five interviews with HL school leaders and teachers of the International and Heritage Languages Association (IHLA) in Edmonton, Canada aims to understand the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on HL learners’ diasporic identity formation. We approached HL schools as communities of practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991) where learners acquire specific HLs while engaged in socio- cultural communal practices. In addition, Basu’s (2011) conceptualization of school as a space of integration through multilingualism helped us understand the changes affecting immigrant integration and identity perceptions during the pandemic. Findings show that the forced transition to online teaching and learning during the pandemic led to the development of new transregional and transnational practices and collaborations. These new practices helped expand and redefine the traditional understanding of community, identity, and belonging within HL communities. As a result of the pandemic, the conceptualization of community moved beyond physical land borders towards global cyber communities linked by the given HL. This finding signals the departure from land-based understanding of identities towards language-based cybercommunity-linked identities – the shift that prompted us to examine these new relationalities through the lens of groupness, which challenges the rather broad and overused notion of identity. Our findings further indicate that these newly forged relationalities and agencies of diasporic heritage communities generated resistance to the systems of power of the host societies that marginalize diasporic heritage communities.


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