Archiving affect and activism: Hashtag feminism and structures of feeling in Women's March tweets
On 21 January 2017, over three million women participated in the Women’s March throughout the U.S., one day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration. This article investigates the digital component of this historic protest as a powerful moment of hashtag feminism, one that exemplifies the vital role of affect in contributing to social change. Through qualitative analysis of 2,600 #WhyIMarch tweets from the day of the March, we identify the rhetorical strategies that best leverage affect to further the social justice goals of the March — dedications, personal narratives, the use of first-person, and the use of humor — and describe the affective outcomes of these strategies, including motivational affect, vicarious affect, and collective affect. Using Raymond Williams’ concept of “structures of feeling,” we argue that these rhetorical strategies and their affective outcomes create a digital archive of affect that captures the cultural climate surrounding the Women’s March and mediates the way this cultural moment is affectively remembered. This study reveals that affect is vital for effective hashtag feminism
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