​​​​​​​Research Question:
How do #Immigrad college graduation caps on Instagram seem to function as a counter-narrative to the anti-immigration sentiments of the Trump Era?

Abstract:
This paper addresses the phenomenon of #Immigrad contributing to a cultural shift in the form of decorated mortarboards, photos, or personal narratives. Last year, non-profit organizations created the hashtag to invite undocumented youths to share their story in which stresses graduating as an experience symbolic of their American citizenship. I specifically examine the function of #Immigrad mortarboards on Instagram as a possible counter narrative to the anti-immigration sentiments of the Trump Era. Through the concept of Zimmerman (2016) transmedia testimonio and image-based activism literature, I review 100 #Immigrad mortar boards on Instagram to demonstrate that the keywords and themes represent undocumented youth building a collective identity and engaging in a historically exclusive political space. The mortar boards are brought into the broader framework of Costanza-Chock (2014) transmedia organizing by linking political and cultural events of the Immigrant Rights Movement. By doing so, I argue that the undocumented youth are adapting to the political environment with innovative transmedia strategies in order to achieve social change. 

The grassroots and innovative media strategies of the Immigrant Rights Movement are brought to the forefront through my examination of #Immigrad mortarboards on Instagram as a counter-narrative to the anti-immigration sentiments of the Trump Administration. I explore personalized mortarboards hashtagged with Immigrad on Instagram because the movement has used an image-based platform with limited features to build solidarity, create a collective identity, and engage in a political sphere controlled by and made for elites. I hypothesize that an image-based platform is a movement tool to achieve social change because online visual communication and face-to-face activism interweave together. To test this, I use MAXQDA, a qualitative data analysis software, to code 90 #Immigrant motarboards on Instagram for a relationship between the symbols and text on the post and on-the-ground movement actions such as storytelling. My research is grounded and guided by image-based activism literature and Sasha Costanza-Chock’s transmedia organizing framework.

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