The Cycle of Anti-Blackness: Digital Activism, Grammar, and (At)tending to Blackness Open Access

Epie, Dessy-Liza (Spring 2022)

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Anti-blackness maintains its existence by adapting to contemporaneous times. By continuously transforming its socio-political mechanisms, it captures, dispossesses, expropriates, and preserves the category of blackness. Social media sustains the antiblack structures that have readily been seen through slavery, colonialization, and neocolonization. In the wake of current black social movements operating primarily through social media, we must ask what is the relationship between black social death and the desire for more black visibility? Can visibility become harmful, as digital social movements across the world are growing exponentially in the aftermath of black deaths? In this project, I argue that social death is the price black experience pays for visibility; this in turn reifies the abject condition of blackness. More specifically, I contend that social media mirrors the antiblackness of slavery, colonization, and neocolonization. Though black social movements gain visibility via social media platforms, I attempt to show how such movements are caught in antiblack structures by presenting progress as cyclical rather than linear. I rely primarily on the works of black critical theorists like Christina Sharpe and Saidiya Hartman. As central figures in the growing scholarship on questions of blackness’ relation to progress and time their interventions theoretically foreground my project. Via close readings of their texts, my project’s central question – i.e. What does visibility afford us when it is purchased at the cost of black social life – is therefore taken up by attempting to understand what progress, visibility, and agency represent for black social movements at a time where social media is utilized as a site of resistance.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction ....1

Chapter 1: Empathy, Fungibility, and the Archive of Social Memory .... 6

Chapter 2: Social Death and the Dilemma of Ethical Grammar .... 16

Chapter 3: Care as Practice and Praxis .... 25

Conclusion .... 35

Bibliography .... 40

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