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Ethnic differences vs nationhood in times of national crises: The role of social media and communication strategies

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Are there events that temporarily unite differences among ethnic groups in a multiethnic nation state? Using a Kenya’s drought-relief initiative, dubbed Kenyans4Kenya (K4K), this article responds to this question. It uses framing analysis to examine how K4K and its followers constructed messages to deliberately generate empathy for the drought victims. Messages on K4K’s Facebook page were placed in three collective frames: diagnostic, prognostic and motivational. They were also coded according to three identified thematic frames: anti-regime, humanitarian, and patriotism/ national pride. The findings of this study demonstrate the success of K4K in its ability to frame a humanitarian crisis in a way that rendered the divisive fissures of ethnic differences temporarily insignificance and inconspicuous. K4K successfully cast the pain and suffering of the drought victims as unwarranted by locating its discourse within the ambit of a nation that had failed to provide its citizens with the very basic of human rights.

Keywords: Facebook; Kenya; Kenyans4Kenya; drought; ethnicity; social media

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Wisconsin

Publication date: September 1, 2015

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UA-1313315-26