Advertisement

Death Matters pp 199-220 | Cite as

Aligned with the Dead: Representations of Victimhood and the Dead in Anti-Police Violence Activism Online

  • María LangaEmail author
  • Philip K. Creswell
Chapter

Abstract

In this chapter, we analyze the way Black Lives Matter activists represent the victims of police killings in online media, in a context where African Americans are criminalized both in life and after death. Departing from Peirce’s semiotic theory, we find that activists reconstruct the deceased’s personhood by identifying them with a larger victimized collective and with the protestors themselves as potential victims of racialized police violence. We also find that activists frame their claims visually, utilizing different modes of representation in different contexts. In doing so, the dead not only become full persons again, but also postmortem actors. The dead join the fight against police killings of African Americans.

Keywords

Digital activism Semiotics Personhood Memorialization Black Lives Matter 

References

  1. Agamben, G. (1998) Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Amnesty International. (2015) ‘Deadly Force: Use of Lethal Force in the United States’, http://www.amnestyusa.org/research/reports/deadly-force-police-use-of-lethal-force-in-the-united-states, accessed 13 February 2018.
  3. Askanius, T. (2013) ‘Protest Movements and Spectacles of Death: From Urban Places to Video Spaces’ in N. Doerr, A. Mattoni, and S. Teune (ed.), Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change: Vol. 35. Advances in the Visual Analysis of Social Movements, Bingley: Emerald Insight.Google Scholar
  4. Beauchamp, T. (2007) ‘The Limits of Virtual Memory: Nationalisms, State Violence, and the Transgender Day of Remembrance’, InterAlia: Pismo poświecone studiom queer, 2, 1–16.Google Scholar
  5. Berger, P. L. and Luckmann, T. (1989 [1966]) The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge, New York: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  6. Black Lives Matter. (2017) ‘Black Lives Matter | About’, http://www.blacklivesmatter.com/about, accessed 28 March 2017.
  7. Boellstorff, T., Nardi, B., Pearce, C. and Taylor, T. L. (2012) Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method, Princeton, Oxford: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Brunson, R. K. and Miller, J. (2006) ‘Gender, Race, and Urban Policing: The Experience of African American Youths’, Gender and Society, 20(4), 531–552.Google Scholar
  9. Burucúa, J. E. and Kwiatkowski, N. (2015) Cómo Sucedieron Estas Cosas: Representar Masacres y Genocidios, Buenos Aires: Katz.Google Scholar
  10. Clancey, G. (2015) ‘The Diaspora of the Dead: Civic Memorialization in the Age of Online Databases’, Mortality, 20(4), 390–407.Google Scholar
  11. Coates, T.-N. (2015) Between the World and Me, New York: Spiegel & Grau.Google Scholar
  12. Desmond, M., Papachristos, A. V. and Kirk, D. S. (2016) ‘Police Violence and Citizen Crime Reporting in the Black Community’, American Sociological Review, 81(5), 857–876.Google Scholar
  13. Devgan, S. (2013) ‘From the “Crevices in Dominant Memories”: Virtual Commemoration and the 1984 Anti-Sikh Violence’, Identities, 20(2), 207–233.Google Scholar
  14. Doerr, N., Mattoni, A. and Teune, S. (2013) ‘Toward a Visual Analysis of Social Movements, Conflicts and Political Mobilization’, in N. Doerr, A. Mattoni, and S. Teune (eds.), Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change: Vol. 35. Advances in the Visual Analysis of Social Movements, Bingley: Emerald Insight.Google Scholar
  15. Doerr, N. and Milman, N. (2014) ‘Working with Images’ in D. Della Porta (ed.), Methodological Practices in Social Movement Research, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Earl, J. and Kimport, K. (2011) Digitally Enabled Social Change: Activism in the Internet Age, Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  17. Friedersdorf, C. (2015, September 24) ‘Will Black Lives Matter Be a Movement That Persuades?’ The Atlantic, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/09/will-black-lives-matter-be-a-movement-that-persuades/407017/, accessed 13 February 2018.
  18. Gould, D. (2001) ‘Rock the Boat, Don’t Rock the Boat, Baby: Ambivalence and the Emergence of Militant AIDS Activism’, in J. Goodwin, J. M. Jasper, and F. Polletta (eds.), Passionate Politics: Emotions and Social Movements, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  19. Haffman, D. and Young, M. P. (2010) ‘War Pictures: The Grotesque as a Mobilizing Tactic’, Mobilization: An International Quarterly, 1(15), 1–24.Google Scholar
  20. Hilpinen, R. (2007) ‘On the Objects and Interpretants of Signs: Comments on T. L. Short’s Peirce’s Theory of Signs’, Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society, 43(4), 610–618.Google Scholar
  21. Humphrey, M. and Valverde, E. (2007) ‘Human Rights, Victimhood, and Impunity: An Anthropology of Democracy in Argentina’, Social Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice, 51(1), 179–197.Google Scholar
  22. Irwin, M. D. (2015) ‘Mourning 2.0: Continuing Bonds Between the Living and the Dead on Facebook’, OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying, 72(2), 119–150.Google Scholar
  23. Joas, H. (2013) The Sacredness of the Person: A New Genealogy of Human Rights, Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Jones, R. (2009) ‘The Aesthetics of Protest’, Enculturation, 6(2), http://www.enculturation.net/6.2/jones, accessed 07 February 2017.
  25. Klass, D., Silverman, P. R. and Nickman, S. L. (ed.) (1996) Continuing Bonds: New Understandings of Grief, Washington, DC: Taylor & Francis.Google Scholar
  26. Klinger, D. A. (2011) ‘On the Problems and Promise of Research on Lethal Police Violence’, Homicide Studies, 16(1), 78–96.Google Scholar
  27. Králová, J. (2015) ‘What Is Social Death?’ Contemporary Social Science, 10(3), 235–248.Google Scholar
  28. Krysinska, K. and Andriessen, K. (2015) ‘Online Memorialization and Grief After Suicide: An Analysis of Suicide Memorials on the Internet’, OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying, 71(1), 19–47.Google Scholar
  29. Luhtakallio, E. (2013) ‘Bodies Keying Politics: A Visual Frame Analysis of Gendered Local Activism in France and Finland’, in N. Doerr, A. Mattoni, and S. Teune (eds.), Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change: Vol. 35. Advances in the Visual Analysis of Social Movements, Bingley: Emerald Insight.Google Scholar
  30. Mapping Police Violence. (2017) ‘Planning Team’, https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/planning-team/, accessed 13 February 2018.
  31. McEvoy, K. and McConnachie, K. (2012) ‘Victimology in Transitional Justice: Victimhood, Innocence and Hierarchy’, European Journal of Criminology, 9(5), 527–538.Google Scholar
  32. McLaren, K. (2013). ‘The Emotional Imperative of the Visual: Images of the Fetus in Contemporary Australian Pro-Life Politics’, in N. Doerr, A. Mattoni, and S. Teune (eds.), Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change: Vol. 35. Advances in the Visual Analysis of Social Movements, Bingley: Emerald Insight.Google Scholar
  33. Meese, J., Nansen, B., Kohn, T., Arnold, M. and Gibbs, M. (2015) ‘Posthumous Personhood and the Affordances of Digital Media’, Mortality, 20(4), 408–420.Google Scholar
  34. Mendoza, E. F. O. (2017) ‘Feminicide and the Funeralization of the City: On Thing Agency and Protest Politics in Ciudad Juárez’, Theory & Event, 20(2), 351–380.Google Scholar
  35. Milstein, C. (ed.) (2017) Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief, Kindle edn, Chico: AK Press.Google Scholar
  36. Monelle, R. (1991) ‘Music and the Peircean Trichotomies’, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, 22(1), 99–108.Google Scholar
  37. Nguyen, H. T. (2015) ‘Wiring Death: Remembering on the Internet’, КУЛТУРА/Culture, 11, 65–76.Google Scholar
  38. Olesen, T. (2013) ‘“We Are All Khaled Said”: Visual Injustice Symbols in the Egyptian Revolution, 2010–2011’, in N. Doerr, A. Mattoni, and S. Teune (eds.), Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change: Vol. 35. Advances in the Visual Analysis of Social Movements, Bingley: Emerald Insight.Google Scholar
  39. Peirce, C. S. (1992). ‘What Is a Sign?’, in N. Houser & C. Kloesel (eds.), The Essential Peirce: Vol. 1 (1867–1893), Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. (Original work published 1894).Google Scholar
  40. Philipps, A. (2012) ‘Visual Protest Material as Empirical Aid’, Visual Communication, 11(1), 3–21.Google Scholar
  41. Rankine, C. (2017) ‘The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning’, in C. Milstein (ed.), Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief, Chico: AK Press.Google Scholar
  42. Ross, C. T. and Hills, P. J. (2015) ‘A Multi-Level Bayesian Analysis of Racial Bias in Police Shootings at the County-Level in the United States, 2011–2014’, PLOS ONE, 10(11), e0141854.Google Scholar
  43. Smiley, C. J. and Fakunle, D. (2016) ‘From “Brute” to “Thug”: The Demonization and Criminalization of Unarmed Black Male Victims in America’, Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 26(3–4), 350–366.Google Scholar
  44. Tolliver, W. F., Hadden, B. R., Snowden, F. and Brown-Manning, R. (2016) ‘Police Killings of Unarmed Black People: Center Race and Racism in Human Behavior and the Social Environment Content’, Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 26(3–4), 279–286.Google Scholar
  45. Varagur, K. (2017, January 15) ‘How Black Lives Matter Activists Plan to “Check the Police”’, The Huffington Post, https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/police-union-contract-project_us_565f4193e4b08e945fedb444, accessed 13 February 2018.
  46. Walter, T. (2018) ‘The Pervasive Dead’, Mortality, 16, 1–16.Google Scholar
  47. Walter, T., Hourizi, R., Moncur, W. and Pitsillides, S. (2012) ‘Does the Internet Change How We Die and Mourn? Overview and Analysis’, OMEGA – Journal of Death and Dying, 64(4), 275–302.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

Personalised recommendations