Ethnography of the University / Ethnography of the University: Focus on Politics 2018 / Undergraduate Ethnography

Student bio: Ailin (Zhi Wen) Li (Ethnography of the University 2018: Focus on Politics)

My name is Ailin (Zhi Wen) Li and I am currently a fourth-year student double-majoring in Sociocultural Anthropology and Psychology. The project I pursued for this class, titled “Politics as Fun: Laughter, Relief, and Bonding through Memes,” takes a look at the UofT Memes for Edgy Teens, a large Facebook meme group at the University of Toronto. In this article, I explore the potential for memes to serve as a meeting ground between the politics of the everyday (usually observed in offline contexts) and the description of online political networks as necessarily mobile. Memes function not only as a practice of critique in everyday life but also serve as a social anchor for students to frame their university experiences around, which produces both experiences of bonding and relief.

In my individual blog posts, I touch on three topics which did not make it into the final cut of my final paper but nevertheless provide insights into my methodological and theoretical processes. The first post, “Conducting a Memeography,” explores some of the challenges faced in conducting an online ethnography in a group that is highly active and also one I was already a part of. The second post, “‘Why Post This?’: Boundary-Making in Humour,” explores the contours of humour related to memes and how students negotiate what is funny and what is not. The last post, “Paradox of a Meme: Relatability and Novelty,” provides a brief insight into the concept of virality as it relates to the political function of memes.

Blog Posts By Ailin:

Conducting a Memeography

“Why Post This?”: Boundary-Making in Humour

Paradox of a Meme: Relatability and Virality

Being Native to the Field: A Double-Edged Sword

Ethnography of the University Collaborative Writing Theme 3: Who is the imagined university student

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