More than keyboard heroes? #ichoosefish, disaster framing, and environmental protests in Vietnam

Thai Nguyen Van Quoc*, Elen Maarja Trell, Gunnar Mallon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

This paper investigates the role of social media in mobilizing environmentalism amid authoritarian restrictions, focusing on the Vietnam coastal pollution of 2016. It contributes to current academic debates by showing how elements that are apparently mundane and irrelevant become the stage for political action within social media. We examined the interface of connective actions (social media activism) – collective actions (protests) and the role of food symbolism in translating digital activism into physical resistance that bridges the distance between rural and urban areas. Data were collected from Facebook and Twitter, as well as semi-structured interviews, policy documents, and national newspapers and broadcasts. Food symbolism, exemplified by #ichoosefish, helped personalize grievances and materialize protest actions amid the government’s countermeasures. The results further show that by using social media, especially Facebook, the activists managed to rationalize their political engagement in a non-participatory context and mobilize protests during political restrictions by arguing that their ‘apolitical’ actions were motivated by food-based grievances associated with personal, environmentalist and nationalist concerns. Food symbolism is thus essential in transitioning from connective actions to collective actions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMedia, Culture and Society
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16-Feb-2024

Keywords

  • collective action
  • connective action
  • environmentalism
  • food symbolism
  • Vietnam

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