PAYING RESPECTS, STREAMING AFFECT: ELECTION DAY 2016 AT SUSAN B. ANTHONY'S GRAVESITE
On U.S. Election Day 2016, thousands of people gathered at Susan B. Anthony’s grave in Rochester, NY. They were there to commemorate Anthony’s women’s suffrage activism over a century prior and to celebrate the presidential candidacy of Hilary Clinton, the first woman nominated by a major U.S. American political party. A thirteen-hour livestream of the gravesite by a local journalist captured the unprecedented crowd at the cemetery and drew a much larger crowd online. In the hours before election results were announced, the livestream gained millions of viewers and thousands of comments. While existing research has begun to examine the complex relationship between personal and collective memory, memorialization, and social media, less attention has been devoted to the ways that history and politics become tools for users and professionals to represent themselves. I examine the gravesite livestream as an illustrative case study of the ways that actors with different levels of access and control over a media event use commemoration as a vehicle for political self-representation. I conducted a textual analysis of the entire livestream, including the video and comment feeds. Through the analysis, I traced how four actors built upon a shared collective vision of U.S. American women’s history and future to contribute to the livestream and find themselves within it, including the city mayor’s office, gravesite visitors, the journalist who captured the stream, and commenters. Ultimately, I suggest that in commemorating women’s historical political action, these self-representational narratives present livestream creators, viewers, and subjects as political actors.