Narrative Agency in Hashtag Activism: The Case of #BlackLivesMatter

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Commentary | Open Access

Narrative Agency in Hashtag Activism: The Case of #BlackLivesMatter


  • Guobin Yang Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, USA, and Department of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania, USA


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Abstract:  Hashtag activism happens when large numbers of postings appear on social media under a common hashtagged word, phrase or sentence with a social or political claim. The temporal unfolding of these mutually connected postings in networked spaces gives them a narrative form and agency. Applying Karlyn Campbell’s propositions about rhetorical agency to the case of #BlackLivesMatter, this essay shows that narrative agency in hashtag activism derives from its narrative form as well as from its contents and social context. Narrative agency is communal, invented, skillful, and protean.

Keywords:  #BlackLivesMatter; agency; hashtag activism; narrative

Published:   11 August 2016


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v4i4.692


© Guobin Yang. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.