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COVID-19 and viral anti-Asian racism: A multimodal critical discourse analysis of memes and the racialization of the COVID-19 pandemic

Yan Wu Orcid Logo, Matthew Wall Orcid Logo

Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, Volume: 8, Issue: 2, Pages: 107 - 127

Swansea University Authors: Yan Wu Orcid Logo, Matthew Wall Orcid Logo

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DOI (Published version): 10.1386/jcca_00040_1

Abstract

This article examines how internet memes both enacted and reproduced racialization of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were motivated to undertake this work by a surge in hatred towards and violence against people with East Asian heritage following the outbreak of COVID-19. We focus on memes because of the...

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Published in: Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art
ISSN: 2051-7041 2051-705X
Published: Bristol, UK Intellect 2021
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URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa58852
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first_indexed 2021-11-30T10:40:37Z
last_indexed 2022-01-01T04:25:14Z
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spelling 2021-12-31T14:43:01.9301775 v2 58852 2021-11-30 COVID-19 and viral anti-Asian racism: A multimodal critical discourse analysis of memes and the racialization of the COVID-19 pandemic fcb0b08dd7afa00f6899a02d4cb66fff 0000-0002-5741-6862 Yan Wu Yan Wu true false 22914658d586a5759d4d4b945ea140bd 0000-0001-8265-4910 Matthew Wall Matthew Wall true false 2021-11-30 AMED This article examines how internet memes both enacted and reproduced racialization of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were motivated to undertake this work by a surge in hatred towards and violence against people with East Asian heritage following the outbreak of COVID-19. We focus on memes because of their ubiquity in contemporary culture and their capacity to both reflect and shape discourses. We conduct a multimodal critical discourse analysis of two prominent memes – juxtaposing a ‘top-down’ process of meme selection and distribution (the sharing of ‘The Kung-Flu Kid’ meme on Instagram by Donald Trump Jr) with a ‘bottom-up’ process (the ‘Corona-chan’ meme that originated on the website 4chan). We situate our study in a growing literature on politicized memes, challenging an emerging consensus that lauds ‘bottom-up’ memes as a democratizing force enabling resistance to hegemony, inequality and injustice. While we do not reject this characterization outright, we add nuance, showing that racialized memetic discourses around COVID-19 were propagated both from the top-down and from the bottom up. We conclude that memes are particularly powerful communicative tools in racialized discourse because their use of polysemy, humour and cultural reference allows them to subvert the mechanisms that sanction openly racist statements. Journal Article Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art 8 2 107 127 Intellect Bristol, UK 2051-7041 2051-705X COVID-19; Corona-chan; Kung-Flu Kid; anti-Asian racism; digital semiology; hegemony; internet memes 1 11 2021 2021-11-01 10.1386/jcca_00040_1 COLLEGE NANME Media COLLEGE CODE AMED Swansea University 2021-12-31T14:43:01.9301775 2021-11-30T10:28:37.7595020 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences School of Culture and Communication - Media, Communications, Journalism and PR Yan Wu 0000-0002-5741-6862 1 Matthew Wall 0000-0001-8265-4910 2 58852__21978__20ba165340964c72aa1463a9b4f4c461.pdf 58852.pdf 2021-12-31T14:40:21.2513225 Output 399756 application/pdf Accepted Manuscript true 2022-11-01T00:00:00.0000000 true eng
title COVID-19 and viral anti-Asian racism: A multimodal critical discourse analysis of memes and the racialization of the COVID-19 pandemic
spellingShingle COVID-19 and viral anti-Asian racism: A multimodal critical discourse analysis of memes and the racialization of the COVID-19 pandemic
Yan Wu
Matthew Wall
title_short COVID-19 and viral anti-Asian racism: A multimodal critical discourse analysis of memes and the racialization of the COVID-19 pandemic
title_full COVID-19 and viral anti-Asian racism: A multimodal critical discourse analysis of memes and the racialization of the COVID-19 pandemic
title_fullStr COVID-19 and viral anti-Asian racism: A multimodal critical discourse analysis of memes and the racialization of the COVID-19 pandemic
title_full_unstemmed COVID-19 and viral anti-Asian racism: A multimodal critical discourse analysis of memes and the racialization of the COVID-19 pandemic
title_sort COVID-19 and viral anti-Asian racism: A multimodal critical discourse analysis of memes and the racialization of the COVID-19 pandemic
author_id_str_mv fcb0b08dd7afa00f6899a02d4cb66fff
22914658d586a5759d4d4b945ea140bd
author_id_fullname_str_mv fcb0b08dd7afa00f6899a02d4cb66fff_***_Yan Wu
22914658d586a5759d4d4b945ea140bd_***_Matthew Wall
author Yan Wu
Matthew Wall
author2 Yan Wu
Matthew Wall
format Journal article
container_title Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art
container_volume 8
container_issue 2
container_start_page 107
publishDate 2021
institution Swansea University
issn 2051-7041
2051-705X
doi_str_mv 10.1386/jcca_00040_1
publisher Intellect
college_str Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
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hierarchy_top_id facultyofhumanitiesandsocialsciences
hierarchy_top_title Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
hierarchy_parent_id facultyofhumanitiesandsocialsciences
hierarchy_parent_title Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
department_str School of Culture and Communication - Media, Communications, Journalism and PR{{{_:::_}}}Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences{{{_:::_}}}School of Culture and Communication - Media, Communications, Journalism and PR
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description This article examines how internet memes both enacted and reproduced racialization of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were motivated to undertake this work by a surge in hatred towards and violence against people with East Asian heritage following the outbreak of COVID-19. We focus on memes because of their ubiquity in contemporary culture and their capacity to both reflect and shape discourses. We conduct a multimodal critical discourse analysis of two prominent memes – juxtaposing a ‘top-down’ process of meme selection and distribution (the sharing of ‘The Kung-Flu Kid’ meme on Instagram by Donald Trump Jr) with a ‘bottom-up’ process (the ‘Corona-chan’ meme that originated on the website 4chan). We situate our study in a growing literature on politicized memes, challenging an emerging consensus that lauds ‘bottom-up’ memes as a democratizing force enabling resistance to hegemony, inequality and injustice. While we do not reject this characterization outright, we add nuance, showing that racialized memetic discourses around COVID-19 were propagated both from the top-down and from the bottom up. We conclude that memes are particularly powerful communicative tools in racialized discourse because their use of polysemy, humour and cultural reference allows them to subvert the mechanisms that sanction openly racist statements.
published_date 2021-11-01T04:12:27Z
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