Reactistan: Do the Subaltern speak on YouTube?
Keywords:Subalternity, culture, YouTube, social media, agency, representation
The advent of digital user-created media platforms such as YouTube has made possible the spread of a wide range of information including novel forms and variants of what might have previously been characterized as anthropological content. The present paper examines YouTube videos on a specific channel featuring purported “tribal people” from Pakistan reacting to cultural items and stimuli that are common to Western (and domestic urban) audiences. We found significantly greater indications of agency in the videos than indicators of subalternity. While the videos focused primarily on presenting the views and opinions of the participants and allowing their voices to be heard, they also held a continuing focus on the subjects' isolation or lack of exposure to mainstream. While agency and subalternity indices did not differ by gender, male participants outnumbered females and enjoyed greater screen time in the videos while audiences sometimes responded differently to male and female participants. The paper concludes with a discussion of whether such representation and presence in online media constitute a meaningful step towards enabling the subaltern to “speak.”
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