Alternative Readings and Affective Economies: Toward Lesbian-Identified Resources for Building Media-Engaged Counterpublic Communities
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Media and popular culture are commonly understood to play a significant role in the process of socialization as they can be used to communicate messages about which behaviours are considered socially appropriate, thereby influencing how people perform those behaviours and respond to the behaviours of others. However, queer identities are rarely depicted in the mainstream, and when they are, they are frequently limited to stereotypical representations and/or subtexts. In the case of queer women, in particular, mainstream media representations are often limited to their depictions as objects of desire intended for heteronormative consumption rather than affirmation. This begs the question of how such depictions might influence the formation of queer female identities, as well as how queer women might reclaim narrative spaces. This thesis aims to develop an understanding of how queer women recognize and define lesbian narratives within heteronormative mainstream spaces via the practice of alternative readings and how they use these understandings to construct lesbian counterpublics. Using data collected through a series of semi-structured interviews and collaborative media analyses with self-identified queer women, I attempt to identify narrative strategies more likely to appeal to and attract queer female audiences, ultimately concluding that, rather than particular genres, tropes, or narrative models, participants expressed the strongest attachments to narratives in which queer identities were expressly articulated and normalized, thereby producing a sense of authenticity of possibility in the characters. However, the emergence of new economies within these digital counterpublics can also lead to the reproduction of mainstream hegemonies.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
DepartmentInterdisciplinary Centre for Culture and Creativity
ProgramWomen's and Gender Studies
CommitteeMorrison, Melanie; Meyers, Mark; Martin, Ann; Borsa, Joan
Copyright DateJune 2020