Voicing Online Community Beauty: Is in the Eye of the Phone Holder Miari Taina Stephens (Harvard University) AfroCaribbean Silence Breakers in the Digital Public Sphere Leslie Kay Jones (Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy) “Always Together”: A Digital Diasporic Elegy Tzarina T. Prater (Bentley University) Digital Space as Submarine – The Caribbean IRN’s Radical Praxis & Knowledge Production Angelique V. Nixon (Institute for Gender and Development Studies, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago) Moderator: Isis Semaj-Hall (University of the West Indies, Mona) Beauty: Is in the Eye of the Phone Holder Miari Taina Stephens (Harvard University) “Beauty: In the Eye of the Phone Holder” centers how black Puerto Rican women use social media to discuss the politics of beauty on the island. My research addresses two questions: how do black Puerto Rican women use social media to transform or dismantle the racialized, gendered and sexualized politics of beauty on the island and in the wider Caribbean? And what is the role of social media in facilitating the organization of black Puerto Rican women for racial justice off-line? This project expands from literature on social movements; new digital technologies and social engagement; black feminist anthropology; and racialized, gendered politics of beauty and aesthetics. The literature is put into conversation through questions they pose about belonging and community– how have black women used aesthetics and embodiment to signal collective identity? How does the digital age of the twenty-first century alter our understandings of what constitutes social movements and communities? How does a black feminist anthropology provide a different framework for understanding citizenship or national/cultural belonging? I turn to the anthropology of social media and how the theory of the public sphere is altered by twenty-first century social technologies. This framework is crucial for acknowledging how social media has become a site for community-building and creating belonging or membership in virtual social spaces, yet underlines the limits of these cyber-publics. Further, I draw from Caribbean Studies, situating this cyber-organizing in Tonya Haynes’ lens of “Caribbean Cyberfeminism” (2016) to contextualize it in a wider political, Caribbean Cyberfeminist network. AfroCaribbean Silence Breakers in the Digital Public Sphere Leslie Kay Jones (Andrea Mitchell Center for the Study of Democracy) Black feminist thought is concerned with destabilizing theories of social organization that have been constructed through the erasure of the Black womanhood experience. My work engages in such a destabilization by exploring the resistive and transformative potential of Black cyberfeminist theory in the social media public sphere. For this paper I perform a close reading of discursive interventions made by two AfroCaribbean cyberfeminists on Twitter: @blackamazon and @bad_dominicana. I then compare and contrast my ethnographic observations of audience engagement with their arguments, with attention to both women’s theories about their own hypervisibility. Drawing from Suryia Nayak’s Political Activism of Close Reading Practices, I specifically seek out “boundary events”—moments where methodology and theory are mutually constitutive. I have therefore chosen texts that theorize colorism, immigrant identity and humanity, and capitalism in order to show what is lost through the erasure and minimization of AfroCaribbean perspectives and what is gained by critically amplifying cyberfeminist AfroCaribbean voices in particular. I conclude by discussing how intertextual close reading practices can help reconcile some of the theoretical complexities that arise when we put multiple intersectional perspectives in conversation with one another. It is these complexities, after all, which give intersectionality its resistive power. “Always Together”: A Digital Diasporic Elegy Tzarina T. Prater (Bentley University) The rocksteady track “Always Together,” with music by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires and lead vocals by Stephen Cheng, was recorded in Lee’s Kingston studio in 1967 and disseminated primarily among the Chinese Jamaican population. Based on a Taiwanese folk song, “Alisan Girl” or “The Girl of Ali Mountain,” this “rare rocksteady masterpiece… curiously [sung] in Chinese” has been uploaded to YouTube by hundreds of users, ranging from music collectors and aficionados, to those who simply stumbled upon the track by following digital crumbs. Under dozens of these postings, some accompanied by a still image, or an aggregation of still images (in one case a dance performance), are appeals from Pascal Cheng, son of vocalist Stephen Cheng, who never knew his father, now deceased, had participated in the creation of what is now considered a classic. In crafting a definition of “diasporic elegy,” Nadia Ellis pushes at Rahan Ramazani’s suggestion that “our continued need for formal expressions of mourning amid a thoroughgoing failure of belief in the formal functions of state” are part of on-going and wide-ranging critiques of formations of nationalism, and points specifically to “diaspora artists and writers [for whom] the effort of mourning is often aimed at an incorporation of the elements of diasporic nationalism” (Ellis 169). I read the appeals of Pascal Cheng, his use of the platform’s conventions, its algorithmic code, as an example of a digital diasporic elegy that brings together aesthetics, expressions of mourning, technocratic sensibilities, and an articulation of diasporic nationalism. Digital Space as Submarine – The Caribbean IRN’s Radical Praxis & Knowledge Production Angelique V. Nixon (Institute for Gender and Development Studies, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago) Digital Technologies have long been used by Caribbean LGBTI+ community as a way to create space, assert belonging, and forge relationships that spiral across and beyond the region. So to has the Caribbean diaspora engaged digital technologies to sustain connections and relationships. In some ways, the internet and online spaces reflect and make visible the “Submarine Unity” and creolization of disparate places that are nonetheless inter-connected and related through shared histories and legacies of slavery, colonization, and indentureship. Multiple diasporas, languages, cultures, ancestral heritages, racial mixtures, and post-neo-colonial conditions characterize, determine, and rupture our social and political landscapes. Yet our unity, uniqueness and differences are made more complex (or perhaps troubled) when it comes to diverse genders and sexualities, which are too often framed or understood as foreign, from outside, not us. Online technologies have offered local and regional spaces and community for those who are marginalized because of non-normative gender identity and/or sexuality. The Caribbean IRN (International Resource Network) emerged in 2008 through these spaces as an online network for scholars, teachers, activists, community workers, and artists engaged in work on diverse genders and sexualities. This presentation will offer a reflection of 10 years of network building and radical praxis through digital archives, multimedia online collections, knowledge production, and collaborations across the region and its diaspora using digital technologies. And recent work of the Caribbean IRN in Trinidad and Tobago engages local knowledge products (created for A Sexual Culture of Justice human rights, activity-based project led by UWI IGDS and six local feminist and LGBTI organizations) as another kind of archive through an e-knowledge portal—what I describe as an example of digital submarine unity. Hence, the Caribbean IRN’s use of digital technologies and intersectional approach represents and unsilences Caribbean sexual and gender diversity and thus can be seen as activating a regional rooting, re-routing, spiral connectivity, and sense of belonging (beyond the state and citizenship). Overall, this presentation will explore what the digital space means for Caribbean knowledge production and radical praxis for LGBTI+ community especially.