As I detailed in a previous post, I see in my academic and intellectual trajectory a push and pull between the past and the present (and, for that matter, between the humanities and the social sciences). But now that I’ve committed myself to the present, the question is: where exactly to begin?
At first, this question seemed really daunting. I was socialized into an academic world with “proper” intellectual fields (e.g., Early Modern literature, the novel as genre, Romantic lyric poetry, modernism, etc.), even if some of those fields (e.g., African-American literature, Queer Theory, etc.) were once consider unworthy. That means that even when I believed myself to be “free,” I nevertheless stayed away from fields and topics that seemed unfamiliar or like I didn’t know anything about (ignoring that whether familiar to me or not, I’d still have to develop expertise).
But I promised myself that my current re-engagement with formal training would entail exploring what I truly loved (as opposed to what was interesting but with little feeling) as well as that for which I had real curiosity. For a while now, what has felt most fascinating to me is the cacophonous “conversation” on Twitter, specifically how BIPOC and LGBTQ+ voices manifest in/through that digital public sphere. My approach with working with these voices (Twitter conversations) will necessarily mean bringing to bear decolonial theory, queer theory, and media theory.
Inspired by Project Twitter Literature, what I intend to do is to use the tools that project has created to scrape Twitter data to look for relevant Twitter conversations and threads (using keyword searches as well as using hashtags).
Of course, even if I limit myself to BIPOC and LGBTQ+ voices (and their intersections), that is entirely too much material to contend with. What I need, then, is an entry point. A topical one, though admittedly someone tired now, is the debate around “cancel culture.” And here, important distinctions are necessary: what do these voices consider to be “canceling”? Is canceling rhetorical or material for these populations? How do BIPOC and LGBTQ+ use it? What is the difference between its actual usage by these populations and the perception of how individuals are “canceled”?