Losing Forward: An Ethnographic Study of the LGBT Movement in North Carolina Public Deposited

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  • March 19, 2019
  • Meadows, Laura
    • Affiliation: Hussman School of Journalism and Media, Mass Communication Graduate Program
  • On May 8, 2012, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality in the state. On October 10, 2014, a federal judge ruled the amendment unconstitutional. This ethnographic study of the state's LGBT movement during this timeframe explores both the campaign that led to the marriage ban and its aftermath through participant observation, in-depth interviews, and qualitative analysis of legacy and social media archives, revealing a state-level movement that was transformed through its engagement in the electoral field. Specifically, this study transports Chadwick's (2013) analytical approach of the hybrid media system into the study of social movements, viewing the movement activities of North Carolina's LGBT activists through the lens of a system "built upon interactions among older and newer media logics" in order to reveal the complexity of contemporary media strategies deployed by movement actors at the state, local, and hyper-local levels. Additionally, this dissertation develops the concept of movement publics, defined as discursive groupings of individuals and organizations that share a set of political, social, and/or cultural sensibilities in relation to the movement, in order to reveal both the cultural diversity of the LGBT movement itself and the strategic communicative strategies activists utilize to organize these diverse publics. Finally, this study proposed the conceptualization of a catalyzing event, defined as a political happening that fundamentally alters the trajectory of a social movement to provide a distinct perspective through which to examine the trajectory of a social movement and the experiences, interactions, and events that alter its course. In addition to contributing to multiple literatures on political communication, social movements, LGBT studies, and digital media, this study argues that the larger LGBT movement will benefit from adopting a "Southern strategy" to speak to people where they are in order to build a coalition of movement publics capable of reshaping the social, political, and cultural contexts of their communities. While the LGBT movement has amassed an unprecedented number of victories of the past several years, the path to full political and cultural equality runs through locations and publics historically understood to be antagonistic to the movement's goals: farm country, churches, and communities of color. North Carolina provides an exemplar case to navigate the road ahead.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Gray, Mary
  • Riffe, Daniel
  • Caren, Neal
  • Kreiss, Daniel
  • Johnston, Anne
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2015
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
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