Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This project explores how Black bodies are conscripted into contemporary forms of meme life and viralization that contribute to the reification of Jim Crow era blackface caricatures today. Specifically, I use discourse analysis to examine how millennials are using Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram to both spread and challenge the micro-racism of blackface tropes. I am also interested in how the viralization of Black bodies relies on multisensorial aspects to reify digital blackface. I explore this by examining how race and class are materialized in viral memes and how historical representations of lower class Black people allow for a new Jim Crow blackface caricature to take form in/on Black bodies. The project traces the paradox of meme humour that makes these tropes so consumable and disposable at the same time. Ultimately my study aims to say something about viralization and its relationship to what is and what gets to be culturally acceptable. I do this by exploring the ways in which digital climates are understood, negotiated, and politically transformed in these digital spaces.