Viral Bodies: Uncontrollable Blackness in Popular Culture and Everyday Life

Thumbnail Image

Publication or External Link





Viral Bodies: Uncontrollable Blackness in Popular Culture and Everyday Life maps rapidly circulated performances of Blackness across visual media that collapse Black bodies into ubiquitous “things.” Throughout my dissertation, I use viral performance to describe the uncontrollable discursive circulation of bodies, their behaviors, and the ideas around them. In particular, viral performance is employed to describe the complicated ways that (mis)understandings of Black bodies spread and are often transformed into common-sense beliefs. As viral performances, Black bodies are often made more visible, while simultaneously becoming more opaque. This dissertation examines the recurrence of viral performances of Blackness in viral videos online, film, and photography/images. I argue that viral performances make products that reinscribe stereotypical notions of Blackness while also generating paths of alterity—which contradict the normalized clichés and provide desirable possibilities for Black performance. Viral Bodies forges a new dialogue between visual and aural technologies, performance, and larger historic discourses that script Black bodies as visually (and sonically) deviant subjects. I am interested in how technologies complicate the re-presentation of images, ideas, and ideologies—producing a necessity for new decipherings of performances of Blackness in popular culture and everyday life.