The Internet Meme as a Rhetoric Discourse: Investigating Asian/Asian Americans' Identity Negotiation

by Zhao Ding

Institution: Bowling Green State University
Department: Media and Communication
Degree: MA
Year: 2015
Keywords: Communication; Internet meme; Asian and Asian Americans; identity; rhetoric
Record ID: 2058982
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=bgsu1429219266


This study draws concepts from rhetorical criticism, vernacular rhetoric, visual rhetoric, and whiteness studies, to investigate how Asian/Asian Americans’ online identities are being constructed and mediated by Internet memes. This study examines the use of Internet memes as persuasive discourses for entertainment, spreading stereotypes, and online activism by examining the meme images and texts, including their content, rhetorical components, and structure. Internet memes that directly depict Asian/Asian Americans are collected from three popular meme websites: Reddit, Know Your Meme, and Tumblr. The findings indicate that Internet memes complicate the construction of racial identity, invoking the negotiation and conflicts concerning racial identities described by dominant as well as vernacular discourses. They not only function as entertaining jokes but also reflect the social conflicts surrounding race. However, the prevalence and development of memes also bring new possibilities for social justice movements. Furthermore, the study provides implications of memes for users and anti-racist activities, as well as suggests future research directions mainly in the context of globalization.