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Hashtag Publics

The Power and Politics of Discursive Networks

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Edited By Nathan Rambukkana

This collection investigates the publics of the hashtag. Taking cues from critical public sphere theory, contributors are interested in publics that break beyond the mainstream – in other publics. They are interested in the kinds of publics that do politics in a way that is rough and emergent, flawed and messy, and ones in which new forms of collective power are being forged on the fly and in the shadow of loftier mainstream spheres.
Hashtags are deictic, indexical – yet what they point to is themselves, their own dual role in ongoing discourse. Focusing on hashtags used for topics from Ferguson, Missouri, to Australian politics, from online quilting communities to labour protests, from feminist outrage to drag pop culture, this collection follows hashtag publics as they trend beyond Twitter into other spaces of social networking such as Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr as well as other media spaces such as television, print, and graffiti.
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Chapter Eleven: Realism against #Realness: Wu Tsang, #Realness, and RuPaul’s Drag Race

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

Realism against #Realness: Wu Tsang, #Realness, and RuPaul’s Drag Race1

ANDY CAMPBELL

In order to fall apart as complex beings, we need first to be able to live. —Wu Tsang, CLASS blog, November 18, 2011

What you find, what you feel, what you know, to be real. —Cheryl Lynn, “Got to Be Real”

I

Out of the overexposed whiteness, usually indicating the end of a film reel, a space suddenly comes into focus: it is a dimly lit and mostly empty loft. Windows line the back wall, and the faint red glow of car taillights crisscrossing below can be seen through them. There are two sources of discernable light in the space, a few strips of warm yellow theatrical lights set low on the ground and pointed up to illuminate a white brick wall on the right and a softer, whiter light coming from off-screen left. This second light source illuminates a pile of bodies on the ground. Slowly—shakily—the camera moves towards these bodies.

Far from being strewn about casually, these people are placed, taking up particular poses and positions. One person looks as if she is attempting to get up, another like she is napping, and yet another is on her hands and knees. Voices speak in ← 155 | 156 → rhythmic succession: “I believe that there’s a big future out there. A lot of beautiful things. A lot...

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