Ethnicity, Race, & Migration and Applied Math | Ezra Stiles College

Maslen Ward
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Senior Essay Title: "Black Feminist Rhetorical Strategies in Everyday Twitter Activism: A Case Study of Virality through #NoWarWithIran"

Advisers: Aimee Cox and Tauhid Zaman

Abstract: Most scholarship studying Black feminism and hashtags focuses on the “origin stories” of hashtag movements as a means to recognize their “true grounding” in Black feminist politics. My project argues moving beyond hashtag origin stories as a way to realize their grounding in Black feminist rhetorical and organizing strategies. Rather, through the case study of #NoWarWithIran and a consideration of how activists use language and context to frame this movement, I argue that Black feminist politics lay the foundation for most current day Twitter activism in the United States.

I begin by examining how hashtag movements from past years, such as #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, or #SayHerName, have stemmed from and employed intersectional and Black feminist practices both on and offline. Then, I theorize the hashtag as a way to name and to restructure our relationship to discourse and power. Finally, I model a Hawkes process to analyze the virality of the hashtag #NoWarWithIran. Looking at this hashtag alongside #NoWarOnIran, I consider the potential for radical language renegotiation within a hashtag. I argue that the strategies used by activists tweeting #NoWarWithIran and #NoWarOnIran to cause virality and to renegotiate language stem from strategies developed in earlier hashtag movements grounded in Black feminisms.