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Modular whiteness: A rhetorical analysis of racial anxiety and the imageboard vernacular of 4chan’s /pol/

Chebrolu, E. (2023) Modular whiteness: A rhetorical analysis of racial anxiety and the imageboard vernacular of 4chan’s /pol/. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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My dissertation is a rhetorical analysis of white nationalist rhetoric on the imageboard /pol/itically incorrect hosted by the imageboard platform 4chan. My research responds to the questions: How do the platform affordances of 4chan mediate white nationalist rhetoric? And how does white nationalist rhetoric on /pol/ draw from and supplement contemporary forms of racism? In answering these questions, I draw on racial rhetorical criticism, critical platform studies, and psychoanalytic theorizations of race. I claim that the platform affordances of 4chan mediate white nationalist rhetoric through the cultivation of an imageboard vernacular, or a modular set of posting habits. The central argument of the dissertation is that the imageboard vernacular of /pol/ generates and manages white racial anxiety through racial rhetorical habits formed around the enjoyment of fantasies of racial crises. I analyze the generation and management of white racial anxiety by the vernacular through analysis of posting habits that arise through discussion of four topics of discussion tied to different racial crises: crime, tied to the emergence of the Movement for Black Lives and the 2014 Ferguson Uprisings; conspiracy, linked to crises of white racial representation such as the Charlottesville Unite the Right Rally; immigration, anchored to the U.S.-Mexico border crises and European refugee/migrant crisis; and socialism, bound to the election of U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I conclude with suggestions for the development of an anticolonial and abolitionist media literacy and the strengthening of forms of vernacular racial rhetorical critique derived from my analysis of white nationalist rhetoric.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Chebrolu, E.echebrolu@pitt.eduRIC20
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMatheson, Calum
Committee MemberBruce, Caitlin
Committee MemberJohnson,
Committee MemberMalin,
Committee MemberSquires,
Date: 11 May 2023
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 31 March 2023
Approval Date: 11 May 2023
Submission Date: 22 March 2023
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 310
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Communication: Rhetoric and Communication
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: white nationalism psychoanalysis digital platforms affect rhetoric race
Date Deposited: 11 May 2023 13:52
Last Modified: 11 May 2023 13:52


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