The Archive of the Self: Trans Self-Making and Social Media in Santiago de Chile
Campbell, Baird Cameron
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation argues that social media constitutes a space for innovation on pre-existing forms of narrative resistance dating back to Chile’s military dictatorship (1973-1990), in which individual and group memory-work became a salient form of resistance. I argue that online Chilean trans subjectivities and social media archives are to some extent mutually constitutive; as my interlocutors discover a broad range of trans subjectivities and experiences, they also alter their subjectivities in relation both to the platform itself and the communities it makes possible. I begin by outlining the long-standing relationship between alternative media and Chile’s LGBTI community, theorizing the importance of nontraditional archives as both an analytic and object of study, and situating it within the importance of alternative archival culture in post-dictatorship Chile. I then theorize the central analytic of the dissertation, the archive of the self. I characterize the archive of the self as social and didactic; as an inherent challenge to the putative objectivity of hegemonic historical narratives; and dialectically related with the embodied, gendered self. The subsequent chapters are organized around terms and concepts that emerged as salient during my fieldwork. Historia (History) juxtaposes hegemonic historical narratives of the country’s LGBTI movement with personal and archival narratives to position social media as a uniquely effective tool for the production of alternative histories. In Siempre (Always), I argue that social media has emerged as a tool for questioning, reifying, and maneuvering between teleological and counterhegemonic narratives of gender transition, in favor of one that neither follows nor disavows either entirely. Calle (Street) explores the meaning of this popular slang word, associated with sex work and the country’s travesti population, historically a theme of travesti activism and artistic output. In analyzing this phenomenon online, I argue that social media plays both an archival and instructive role, simultaneously preserving these histories while also preparing younger generations of travestis for the life that may await them. Finally, Animita (an informal Chilean shrine) is an ethnographic exploration of online mourning practices. In this chapter, I propose the ‘networked animita’ to understand the multiply connected traces of the deceased across social media.