Locating the Indian Gendered Subaltern on Digital Platforms: Digital Activism in #section377 and #metooindia
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This work examines the relationship between technology and activism in India, and the role that digital infrastructures play in the development of gendered digital protest. Through a combination of textual discourse and visual analysis, and critical digital humanities, feminist and queer frameworks, I study the digital queer movement around #Section377, and the feminist movement around #MeTooIndia on Twitter and Instagram in India. Through this research, I demonstrate how social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram shape discourse surrounding digital activism, and how digital technologies both enable and disrupt subaltern voices, narratives and bodies in Indian cyberspaces. The comparative study of digital gender movements uncovers how digital platforms empower subaltern gendered voices, enable the construction of digital identities, and facilitate the formation of affective networks of empathy and subaltern counterpublics of resistance through the use of protest hashtags in Indian and Indian diasporic communities in Canada. Simultaneously, however, this study illustrates that digital technologies also hinder the amplification of marginalized voices, and create barriers in participation, representation, and inclusion online. Despite the construction of safe spaces and subaltern counterpublics on Twitter and Instagram, both digital queer and the feminist movements in India are exclusive, and lack individual representation and voluntary participation of women and LGBTQIA+ groups online. This research traces the histories of gendered exclusion that emerge through far-right nationalist, homophobic, and misogynist discourse, and work to actively decenter marginalized voices online in English and regional Indian languages such as Hindi that occur both in the form of textual and visual rhetoric. Ultimately, this research disrupts and troubles the traditional notions of technological determinism, particularly in the Global South, and focuses on questions of digital access, participation, and representation of vulnerable communities.