Discourse and Identity Construction among Algerian Salafis on Facebook: An Online Ethnographic Study

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Abstract Based on the tenets of discourse-centred online ethnography, this study investigates how identity can be discursively generated, reproduced and co-constructed among an Islamic religious grouping in Algeria known as Salafis within the genre of SNSs, taking as a case in point Facebook as it is the most famous and highly used social media platform nowadays. Adopting Zhao, Grasmuck and Martin ‟s (2008) sociological model of implicit and explicit identity claims on SNSs and leaning on Fairclough‟s (2003) critical discourse analytical tools and Van Djik‟s (2006) ideological square model, the study explores the armoury of linguistic and multimodal strategies employed in the presentation and construction of the Salafi identity on Facebook. The findings of the present research showed that the Algerian Salafis in this study represented their Salafi identity on Facebook through diverse textual and multimodal discursive practices including: nicknames, profile pictures (static practices), informative Salafi publications, ideological publications, and exclusive / inclusive discourse in status updates (dynamic discursive practices). Moreover, another key resource of identification and alignment within Salafism is the dominant use of Standard Arabic on Facebook and its „sacred‟ status among these people. These findings showed how identity is dynamic and mostly discursively “shown” rather than “told” on social media platforms and reflected the role of language as a social practice in the modern digital world. The findings of this study have a number of implications for the study of discourse and identity on social media as well as the study of the social phenomena through the lens of SNSs.