POLITICS AND PERFORMATIVE AGENCY IN NIGERIAN SOCIAL MEDIA
In this dissertation, I examine the ways in which social media in Nigeria functions through online signifying practices as a strategy of demarginalization and subaltern resistance. I engage with this perspective by framing Web 2.0 platforms as enablers of citizens’ right to public and performative speech. Interested in the ways in which netizens imagine the nation and perform political selves and identities through viral and popular images on social media, my dissertation underpins a reading of social media that is grounded in an expanded conception of speech, visual and/or verbal. This approach enables me to take cognizance of the voices and perspectives secured by the decentralized capacity of digital media for everyday citizens with access to the Internet. Engaging with how social media re-centers alternative perspectives to prevailing orthodoxies, I explore the ways in which marginal groups, mostly relegated to the periphery of governmental power, emerge in performative spaces of public discourses through digital cultural signifiers such as the selfie, viral Internet memes, and humorous political cartoons posted online. I show that despite the limitations of cyberspace and the uneven access to internet technologies in some parts of Nigeria, social media is a discursive, if not contested, space of cultural production from which postcolonial subjects ‘author’ media narratives that revise, resist, and challenge exclusion and marginality. By analyzing the significations of user-generated cultural forms, mostly fictional images (Internet memes) and actual performative representations (the selfie) produced as vectors of digital activism and resistance, the dissertation highlights the varied ways in which social media functions as a rearticulating mechanism for a more inclusive appearance of young people and women in Nigeria’s public sphere. I analyze the production and circulation of these images within a framework that positions them as supplemental performative strategies to digital activism. Extrapolating the economy of meanings inherent in these images begins, for me, by unsettling the postmodern assumption that mediatized culture is futile for resistance. The refutation of such arguments is necessary to consolidate the claim that the capacity for agency and representation, which social media affords excluded or oppressed populations is more pertinent than the positivist and teleological expectations some scholars have of digital articulations of dissent.
agency, performance, performativity, power, social media,
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)