Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



Social media are new sites on which nationalist ideologies are produced, reproduced, and circulated through discourse. Rather than eradicating the idea of the nation-state or nationalism(s), social media platforms enable the cultivation and maintenance of nations and nationalist ideologies. In this project, I explore how post-1994 South African nationalism is (re)produced, (re)negotiated, and (re)imagined by common social media users through the re-presentation of the immigrant “other.” I argue that by scapegoating immigrants for the South African nation’s social, political, and economic problems online, some South African social media users help further entrench neoliberal capitalism and anti-Black racism in the settler colonial nation-state. My project demonstrates that South African user-generated digital nationalist rhetoric is circulated on the platforms Twitter and WhatsApp in two ways: first, through the circulation of digital content (image, text, and audio) and second, through the platforms’ design features. I contend that due to the features of social media (notably their allowance of user-generated content, participatory nature, and ease of access), their communicative affordances, and their ownership structures, South African anti-immigrant nationalist rhetoric spreads easily, cheaply, and faster than ever before. Although most of the anti-immigrant logics circulated on these platforms are not new, the ability average users have to produce, publish, consume, and share content and engage one another expands the reach of nationalist discourse and the places of the political. Social media platforms and the content circulated on them are both rhetorical and ideological, they are the discursive terrain on which post-1994 national identity and anti-immigrant nationalism is (re)negotiated and (re)imagined. As technology access increases, rhetoric, nationalism, and decolonial scholars will have more opportunities to theorize the emerging phenomenon of user-generated digital nationalism.



Committee Chair

Mack, Ashley

Available for download on Sunday, March 30, 2031