The Playful Politics of Memes

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Memes work as rhetorical weapons and discursive arguments in political conflicts. Across digital platforms, they confirm, contest and challenge political power and hierarchies. They simultaneously create social distortion, hostility, and a sense of community. Memes thus not only reflect norms but also work as a tool for negotiating them. At the same time, memes meld symbolic and cultural elements with technological functionalities, allowing for replicability and remixing.

This book studies how memes disrupt and reimagine politics in humorous ways. Memes create a playful activity that follows a shared set of rules and gives a (shared) voice, which may generate togetherness and political identities but also increase polarization. As their template travels, memes continue to appropriate new political contexts and to (re)negotiate frontiers in the political. The chapters in this book allow us to chart the playful politics of memes and how they establish or push frontiers in various political, cultural, and platform-specific contexts. Taken together, memes can challenge and regenerate populism, carve out spaces for new identity formations, and create togetherness in situations of crises. They can also, however, lead to the normalization of racist discourses.

This book will be of interest to researchers and advanced students of Media and Communication Studies, Information Studies, Politics, Sociology, and Cultural Studies. It was originally published as a special issue of the journal, Information, Communication & Society.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages188
ISBN (Print)9781032449500
ISBN (Electronic)9781003374718
Publication statusPublished - 2023

ID: 319403396