McGannon Center Technology & Society Lecture Series
April 21, 2015
11 – 12:30pm
John Mulcaney Hall 404, Rose Hill, Fordham University
Dr. Serena Bassi, University of Cardiff
McGannon Visiting Scholar
Bringing the Message to LGBTQ Youth Around the World? Online Activism, Translation and Cultural Work
The McGannon Center is pleased to present visiting scholar Serena Bassi, Leverhulme Early Career Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Modern Languages, University of Cardiff, Wales, as part of our Technology & Society Lecture Series. Dr. Bassi will discuss the Italian translation of Dan Savage’s “It gets better” campaign and the negotiation of sexual identities and political struggles between the United States and Italy.
This paper examines the functioning of the personal narratives that survivors of homophobic bullying construct when sharing their experiences on online platforms. The very articulation of a personal story of oppression and liberation so as to fit a prescribed format will be closed in on and interrogated as a form of feminized cultural work.
I will focus on the Italian version of the “It Gets Better” YouTube campaign, which was initially devised in response to a spate of LGBT teen suicides in the United States. Like the English language original, the Italian version “Le cose cambiano” (Things Change, 2012) invites users to upload personal stories that promote the anti-homophobic message of the campaign. Commentators on the U.S. version agree that the stories follow one particular script: determined to “make it better,” an adult LGBT individual overcomes the hardships of their teenage years and lives a happy “out” adult life. Since the goal of the campaign is to wage something of a national war on homophobia, it is hardly surprising that such a narrative is evoked; the story of redemption and self-entrepreneurship underwriting these narratives has been described as quintessentially American.
As the “It Gets Better” website explains, “the Project is developing resources and effecting change in ways that are tailored to local language, culture and need.” However, what this framing works to conceal is that the tailoring of an English-language, U.S.-based project to other languages and to non-Anglophone cultures entails a work of translation. This work is performed invisibly by the individual users who upload their content onto the platform. This paper seeks to widen our idea of translating on online platforms beyond linguistic translation, by shoring up the asymmetrical nature of transnational exchange and by providing tools to look critically at the making of narratives of oppression and liberation on social media.