Cultural Politics Seminar: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Zoom)


Wednesday, December 14, 2022, 12:30pm to 2:30pm


Online Only

"Engaging Influential Politics: Queer Activism on Social Media Platforms"

Attend this event via Zoom (advance registration required)


Elliott TilleczekPhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto.


Alberto Parisi

This event is online only. Please click the "Read More" link for full instructions on how to attend this seminar.


Panagiotis RoilosFaculty Associate. George Seferis Professor of Modern Greek Studies, Department of the Classics; Professor of Comparative Literature, Department of Comparative Literature, Harvard University.


Dimitrios Yatromanolakis, Associate Professor, Department of Classics, Department of Anthropology, and the Humanities Center, The Johns Hopkins University.

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Even though social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok are designed for rapid forms of engagement and are governed by black-box algorithmic programs ultimately serving profit-generating ends, queer activists engage these spaces as crucial sites for activism with the hope of effecting long-lasting and wide-spread sociopolitical change. My research situates the relationship between online queer activism and lasting political engagement as a tension between ‘slick’ digital methods (near-constant social media posting, collapsed spatiotemporalities of online worlds, swift algorithmic changes that highlight certain content above others, etc.) and ‘sticky’ sociopolitical outcomes(engagement beyond virtual ‘liking’ or ‘reposting’, that lingers with followers of online queer activists and accrues into actual social change). My engagement with stickiness is informed by Sara Ahmed’s (2004) concept of sticky affective objects and works methodologically by focusing on how affect moves across, within and outside of collective political projects. I thus frame my ethnographic project using the viscous language of affect: As a sticky goal in a slippery environment, how do online queer activists measure this amorphous phenomenon known as ‘engagement’, and what does it mean to them?

In this paper, I will discuss preliminary findings of my recently completed field research which consisted of 12 months of online interaction with queer social media activists living and working mainly in Toronto and New York. In addition to presenting my theoretical framework as seen below, I hope to engage in a discussion of digital ethnographic methods and tactics for conducting research on such rapidly shifting and opaque grounds as social media platforms.