Various scholars have studied the advantages and disadvantages of using social media platforms such as Instagram for digital anti-racist and anti-sexist activism efforts. Overall, they concluded that while Instagram can be a productive tool to raise awareness, mobilize people, and forward structural change, the platform is simultaneously governed by these structures. As such, it is crucial to understand how the individuals engaging in such digital activism efforts invade, perceive, and navigate the Instagram space to then comprehend how this type of activism contributes to (offline) structural change. Therefore, this thesis answers the research question of how Black female microcelebrities navigate the Instagram space to challenge racist and gender-oppressive structures in Austria. A qualitative mixed-method approach, including digital ethnography via the walkthrough method, qualitative content analysis, and semi-structured interviews, was used. Using digital ethnography, the compositions of the Instagram profiles of five microcelebrities were analyzed, followed by a more in-depth qualitative content analysis of the practices of these women via an analysis of 106 posts and story highlights. Finally, three women were interviewed to understand how they perceive the socio-technical structures of the Instagram space and how that correlates with their content creation and sharing practices. As a result of the data collection and analysis process, the following four themes were developed: educational activism, space shifting, effects on mental health and coping mechanisms, and connecting personal to structural issues. Within these themes, Black microcelebrities were found to use Instagram to educate others and themselves by raising awareness, providing historical contexts and explanations, and thereby challenging the status quo of knowledge and ‘common sense’ in Austria. Similarly, they shift between offline and online spaces as well as between personal and structural instances of oppression to transform these spaces into networks governed by the ideas of Critical Race Black Feminism, digital activism, and spaces where notions of social justice exist. When doing so, however, the women in this study experienced severe impacts on their mental health and well-being, restricting their potential to speak up freely, become visible, and thereby contribute to structural change. Consequently, they were found to use the notions of the (in)visibility paradox to strategically employ their visibility to raise awareness for oppressive structures and their invisibility to shield themselves from potential repercussions of their actions.

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Dr. Amanda Paz Alencar
Media, Culture & Society
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Julia Herkommer. (2022, June 27). Here we speak: Challenging racist and gender-oppressive structures in and through the Instagram space. Media, Culture & Society. Retrieved from