DRAG THEM: A Brief Etymology of So-called ‘Cancel Culture’

Clark, Meredith D.
Communication and the Public

The term “cancel culture” has significant implications for defining discourses of digital and social media activism. In this essay, I briefly interrogate the evolution of digital accountability praxis as performed by Black Twitter, a meta-network of culturally linked communities online. I trace the practice of the social media callout from its roots in Black vernacular tradition to its misappropriation in the digital age by social elites, arguing that the application of useful anger by minoritized people and groups has been effectively harnessed in social media spaces as a strategy for networked framing of extant social problems. This strategy is challenged, however, by the dominant culture’s ability to narrativize the process of being “canceled” as a moral panic with the potential to upset the concept of a limited public sphere.