#Activism: Identity, Affiliation, and Political Discourse-Making on Twitter

  • Alexah Konnelly University of Victoria
Keywords: Hashtags, Twitter, electronically-medicated communication, Sociolinguistics, activism


Twitter is increasingly recognized for having transformative potential for group advocacy. It also acts as a forum for spreading awareness and information on social justice (or activist) movements, as well as for dialogue between users on a given social justice subject. This study examines what motivates the use of hashtags in the activist context, and how this usage connects to broader discourses and ideologies. Drawing on a corpus of two prolific activist hashtags – #YesAllWomen and #HeForShe – I employ a range of methodologies and frameworks to tease apart issues of use, affiliation, and context. I operationalize Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL), an analytical approach concerned with linguistic choices and how language is structured to achieve socio-cultural meanings, to analyze the engagement, meanings, and functions manifest in the dataset. The quantitative results are interpreted within the framework of Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis. I argue that hashtags are both linguistic and social facilitative devices, employed by users to assert their collective identity and political affiliation.

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