Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication Studies

Document Type

Dissertation

Abstract

In recent decades, digital technologies and online networks have become impactful weapons for social justice movements. Citizens have leveraged new media in order to document public (mis)behaviors and acts of aggression that are to various degrees discriminatory and violent. Deemed sub-veillance—surveillance from the margins—digital technologies allow for a shift in looking relations. In this dissertation, I explore the uptake of sub-veillance in meme form. I outline what I call the sub-veillance meme genre, a genre that leverages digital surveillance technologies to craft and circulate social justice messages. Meme makers highlight and strategically parody systemic privilege as a social disciplining mechanism. I argue that these memes initiate important cultural and social conversations about class privilege, racism, sexism, and toxic masculinity. Utilizing a method that melds generic criticism and articulation theory, I chart the ways that sub-veillance memes demystify hegemonic power structures. Through the analysis of three case studies, I illustrate how the sub-veillance meme genre operates through rhetorics of rebuke, specifically deploying strategies of resistance, retribution, and ridicule. I conclude that sub-veillance memes circulate standpoints, lenses through which to see and critique the machinations of privilege. The genre’s rhetorics of rebuke are subcultural contestations made manifest and, thus, significant acts of rhetorical agency.

Committee Chair

Saas, William

Available for download on Wednesday, May 10, 2028

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