Thursday, April 1, 2021
Title: Digital Body Snatching: TikTok, Utilitarian Anti-Blackness, and the Entextualization of the Feminine Black Body in Social Media
Abstract: Taking up anti-Blackness as a pervasive social schema, this paper formulates the entextualization-decontextualization-(re)contextualization (Bauman and Briggs 1990) of “the Black body” in digital space as a practice of body snatching (e.g., TikTok videos of non-Black-identified people performing Blackness, memes and GIFs featuring Black bodies and language shared by non-Black-identified people). When we begin to map the semiotic fields in which these anti-Black multimodal contextualizations transpire, we are well served to call in Black theory, current and past, that helps unravel the materiality of gendered race and the peculiarity of (anti-)Blackness. In particular, locating digital texts like Jasmine Masters GIFs, Nene Leakes memes, "Keisha" TikTok videos, appropriative slang-laden tweets, and "blackphishing" selfies within “the wake“ of racial slavery (Sharpe 2016) helps us make out the “changing same” (Baraka 1968) of anti-Black dispossession. We may get a better hold of the ways such possible acts of dispossession extend a praxis of using Black feminine bodies and minds for the public and private benefit of others when we consider the transhistorical structures that have rendered such bodies and their productions always-already available, fungible, and conspicuously "user-friendly."
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