Memes and Rhetoric Identity (edited collection) - DEADLINE EXTENDED

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Derek M Sparby, Illinois State University


Send proposals to

Memes are ubiquitous in digital spaces. Recent studies on rhetorics and memes show that they can help us express how we’re feeling and build community spaces (Lewis, 2012; Milner, 2013a, Sparby, 2017; Levesque DeCamp, 2022; Sparby, 2023); they can radicalize and influence politics and social movements (Milner, 2013b; Vie, 2014; DeCook, 2018; Mina, 2019; Woods and Hahner, 2019; Spencer, 2019; Condis, 2020; Williams, 2020; Sparby, 2022); and they can even cause digital harm through appropriation and antagonism, or respond to and resist it (Milner, 2013c; Miltner, 2014; Scott, 2014; Phillips, 2015; Jackson, 2017; Jackson, 2019).
One thing these studies and many others have in common but that isn’t always directly addressed is rhetorical identity. For instance, Mina (2019) provides us glimpses into Chinese, Ugandan, and Spanish political meming contexts, explaining how memes can be used to subvert dominant political power structures (while also delighting in the fact that so many countries use animal-based humor) and Spencer (2019) examines memes surrounding anti-trans bathroom bills, showing the ways that memes either support or reject the transphobic legislation. Both of these studies are rooted in identity at the core, but what marks a meme as from a distinct country (aside from language)? What marks a trans meme? How do these memes feed into identity formation/amplification and impact the larger culture(s) in which they circulate? Jackson (2019) has begun answering some of these questions, tracing the similarities between memes and Black rhetorical traditions, showing that without Black knowledges and ways of speaking, memes would not exist. Similarly, Levesque DeCamp (2022) examines how memes, which are messy, resistant to classification, and community-based, are also inherently queer. She shows the ways memes are integral to queer identity formation and expression in digital spaces, explaining “memes are stories that tell us something about identity of both the self, and of one’s relationship to others in the community” (p. 177).
Chapters in this collection will extend these conversations and others to include more memetic perspectives around rhetorical identity, providing a richer understanding of how memes are intertwined with our identities, constructing and amplifying them both online and IRL. This collection will prioritize amplifying and centering work by minoritarian and multiply marginalized scholars and early career/junior scholars whose voices are integral to this conversation. In particular, this collection is primarily interested in ethnographic and autoethnographic studies of meme communities. Most studies of memes, at their core, are by nature autoethnographic because we often have to have to be part of these spaces to have access to and/or understand them. In addition, autoethnographic studies must include appropriate levels of security and protection for members of the meme community who may want to remain anonymous. As such, 500-750 word chapter proposals should include the following:

  • Meme community/ies and/or identity/ies under study
  • Positionality statement + connection to meme community/ies and/or identity/ies
  • Steps taken to ensure safety and security of meme community/ies and/or identity/ies

Non-autoethnographic chapter proposals will be considered, but more care will need to be taken in explaining the connection to the meme community/ies and/or and identity/ies and steps taken to ensure their safety and security, as well as a rationale for why the author wants to study that community/ies and/or and identity/ies.

Some questions chapters may consider (this is not an exhaustive list)

  • How do memes tell stories about self and community identities?
  • What kinds of memetic humor build community identities?
  • How are memes used to develop resilience?
  • What do memetic ethics look like for different communities?
  • What are queer memetics? Trans memetics? Black memetics? Indigenous memetics? Immigrant memetics?

Estimated timeline

  • Chapter proposals due (500-750 words): December 1, 2023
  • Chapter proposals accepted: January 1, 2024
  • Book proposal + TOC + introduction submitted: April 1, 2024
  • Chapter drafts due (6,000-8,000 words): July 1, 2024
  • Peer reviews returned: October 1, 2024
  • Revised chapters due: January 1, 2025

Potential presses for proposal submission

  • University Press of Colorado (Computers and Composition Digital Press)
  • Parlor Press (New Media Theory series)
  • University of Alabama Press (Rhetoric and Digitality or Rhetoric, Culture, and Social Critique series)
  • The Ohio State University Press (Intersectional Rhetorics series)