Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In this paper, I investigate the discursive practices of recontexualization and resignification of the term basket of deplorables by Reddit users on the subreddit r/TheDonald. During a campaign speech on 09/09/2016, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton referred to Donald Trump’s supporters as a basket of deplorables that were “racist, sexist [and] xenophobic” (Chozick, 2016). Many of Trump’s supporters immediately claimed this label as a badge of honor, proclaiming themselves to be deplorable, even naming an inauguration celebration the “DeploraBall” (Andrews, 2017). r/TheDonald is a subreddit dedicated to supporting Trump and has over 700,000 subscribers (Lagorio-Chafkin, 2016). I focus on subreddit members’ resignified usage of the term basket of deplorables as an oppositional political identity. The users on this group often refer to themselves and other members of the group as deplorable in adjectival and nominal forms. The users entextualize, recontextualize, and resignify the speech of a political adversary in order to show their stance toward the speaker and to build solidarity within their community of practice (Bauman & Briggs, 1990; Butler, 1990). This paper will use a Critical Discourse Analytic (Fairclough, 1995) approach to examine how subreddit users position themselves and others within interaction as deplorable. Comparisons will also be drawn to how progressive feminist activists reclaimed the terms nasty woman and nevertheless, she persisted from the speech of conservative politicians like Trump. I argue that the rise of social media and the memeification of politics has created the sociopolitical conditions to allow for the mass resignification of political speech.