• Digital Cultural Rhetorics
• Technical & Professional Communication
• Qualitative Methods
I am a rhetoric and writing researcher who uses qualitative methods to understand how internet-based cultural communities make meaning and share knowledge. My work constellates across technical communication, digital rhetorics, and cultural rhetorics, and I am especially attuned to issues of health and disability justice, technological colonialism, and thriving and futurity for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. I deploy cultural rhetorics-informed methodologies to focus on the rhetorical-relational work of community-specific practices that queer people of color use to survive and thrive amid racism, heteropatriarchy, and ableism. My research agenda on online communities is informed by my community organizing and activism for and with Latinx, Indigenous, and queer communities in Lansing, MI. As a community-engaged scholar and researcher focusing on health who has worked with and in community for some time, I have learned a central maxim that energizes my work: community knows best for itself. I operationalize what Alicia Gaspar de Alba terms activist methodologies for the goal of community empowerment through culturally responsive and adaptive methods, and at the core of my research agenda is activism and social justice. My work is both led by and accountable to the communities of which I am a part. To read more about my dissertation and other projects I am working on, please scroll down.
Table of Contents
"OK Sexual Health Twitter": Toward an Online Community Health Literacy of Sex
In my dissertation, I develop an HIV/AIDS health literacy framework built from the rhetorical strategies that queer and trans Black and Latinx people use to make meaning of their sexual health on Twitter. Over the past two years, the pharmaceutical company Gilead and its patent for Truvada, an HIV prevention medication, have received much scrutiny. Likewise, prophylactic adoption and changing stigma around sexual health within queer and trans communities have undergone rapid developments, and both have commensurate energy on various social media and especially Twitter. With my dissertation project, I tuned into these conversations to see how queer and trans Black, Idigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) make meaning of their sexual health amid shifting sexual mores, prophylactic developments, and pressure from the medical industrial complex, connecting them to current public health scholarship. By incorporating these strategies into a non-clinical public health tool, I argue that scholars and public health officials must expand popular health literacy frameworks to include both community knowledges and the ways they circulate on social media platforms such as Twitter.
With the project driving my dissertation, I built a self-populating Twitter Archiving Google Sheet (TAGS) in fall 2018 using Twitter and Google’s open API that gathered tweets relevant to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV-prevention regimen. Over two years, my TAGS archive collected 15,000 discrete tweets from various users on the site. After cleaning the data (i.e., reviewing each tweet and applying inclusion criteria), I developed a two-round coding schema to construct a grounded theory of what I term body talk, or the literacies built from the embodied and sexual knowledges of communities of color. My results revealed three strategies people of color use to use to make meaning of their sexual health on Twitter: 1) spotlighting bodily reactions to medication despite stigma or shame to inform or seek such knowledge from community; 2) deploying descriptive hashtags such as #U=U (undetectable = untransmittable) or #TruvadaWhore to push against restrictive sexual mores and stigma regarding HIV/AIDS serostatus; and 3) recognizing and countering the complex systems of late capitalist biomedicalization that prioritize profit over life and portray communities of color as always at risk.
The theoretical framework of my dissertation, which I term the intersectional internet as land, actualizes the notion that the internet stands as a relational network comprising biopoliticized, so-called resources when viewed through Black feminist thought and Anishinaabe cosmology. By framing the internet in this way, I cast a hyperfocus on the internet’s material demand, including its concomitant issues (i.e., land grabbing, climate change, water usage), and the Indigenous concept of material relationality. In this manner, I see online communities as extensions of their real-life counterparts and not merely shared cyberspace, which I argue leads to richer analysis of social media-based data such as tweets. This approach follows the genealogy of Black feminist technology studies, Black feminist health sciences, Indigenous science and technology studies, Chicano/Latino studies, disability studies, and settler colonial studies. By investing in this lineage, I am dedicated to working as a researcher for and with BIPOC to interrupt settler colonialism’s effects on health and wellness with specific attention to queer and trans folks.