Avatars in a virtual Diaspora: Developing a theory of cultural ties and identity in Second Life

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Carol Liebler


Virtual worlds, Indian diaspora, Cultural identity

Subject Categories

Mass Communication


This research is a grounded theory study of the Indian Diaspora in the online, immersive, virtual world Second Life. Through field study and observation, participant observation, and interviews with Second Life residents - animated avatars designed and operated by people in real life - involved with Indian-themed places and groups, this research explored the following questions: To what extent does Indian culture in Second Life reflect Indian Diaspora culture in real life? To what extent do Indian avatars' experiences of settlement in Second Life resemble the acculturation process experienced by Indian immigrants to the United States? Central themes discovered in the study were the complex issues faced by avatars in balancing traditional and modern Indian values, and the expansion of the Indian Diaspora in this environment to include non-Indian avatars richly enmeshed in Indian cultural and social life in Second Life. Emerging from the results of this study are proposed key factors of virtual diasporas.


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