This dissertation expands scholarship that posits circulation as rhetoric with ethical implications. From November 2019 to Spring 2020, more than 33 white supremacist crimes occurred at Syracuse University. In response, NotAgainSU, a Black-led student organization formed, demanding accountability and transparency. Protesters built counterpublics with their hashtag activism through #NotAgainSU on Twitter and Instagram. I tracked #NotAgainSU across Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube using digital tools from November 11, 2019 to June 28, 2020; I explored how the hashtag intersected with news by collecting articles; and I conducted surveys and interviews to find out about the experiences of people who saw and circulated #NotAgainSU online. Protesters put counterpublic work into circulating the hashtag that enabled it to accrue collective affective and political value. The hashtag circulated to politicized audiences who joined protesters in what I am calling counterpublic circulation. However, people could appropriate that affective and social value and re-invest it in individual values that were not morally equivalent. This appropriation occurred through an overlapping and necessary kind of circulation that I am calling public circulation, by which I mean circulation that brings content to audiences who depoliticize the content and maintain their positions. The false equation of values is possible through the fictions of an equitable public sphere and a free market that are built into social media company's circulatory systems. News articles used a both-sides model and falsely positioned #NotAgainSU social media posts on equal terms with Syracuse University's arguments. Finally, in reactionary circulation, people could use the same means by which the protesters circulated #NotAgainSU to circulate the hashtag to oppositionally politicized audiences, who re-invested the work of the hashtag into reactionary affective and social capital. Reactionary circulation enabled people to form antifan reactionary identifications to the hashtag and ultimately reinscribed the fiction of white group identity.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Texts and Technology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)
Jones, Leah, "#NotAgainSU: A Case Study of the Counterpublic, Public, and Reactionary Circulation of a Racial Justice Hashtag in the Public Sphere" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 705.