1st Edition

The Playful Politics of Memes

Edited By Mette Mortensen, Christina Neumayer Copyright 2023

    Memes work as rhetorical weapons and discursive arguments in political conflicts. Across digital platforms, they confirm, contest and challenge political power and hierarchies. They simultaneously create social distortion, hostility, and a sense of community. Memes thus not only reflect norms but also work as a tool for negotiating them. At the same time, memes meld symbolic and cultural elements with technological functionalities, allowing for replicability and remixing.

    This book studies how memes disrupt and reimagine politics in humorous ways. Memes create a playful activity that follows a shared set of rules and gives a (shared) voice, which may generate togetherness and political identities but also increase polarization. As their template travels, memes continue to appropriate new political contexts and to (re)negotiate frontiers in the political. The chapters in this book allow us to chart the playful politics of memes and how they establish or push frontiers in various political, cultural, and platform-specific contexts. Taken together, memes can challenge and regenerate populism, carve out spaces for new identity formations, and create togetherness in situations of crises. They can also, however, lead to the normalization of racist discourses.

    This book will be of interest to researchers and advanced students of Media and Communication Studies, Information Studies, Politics, Sociology, and Cultural Studies. It was originally published as a special issue of the journal, Information, Communication & Society.

    1. The playful politics of memes

    Mette Mortensen and Christina Neumayer

    2. Messy on the inside: internet memes as mapping tools of everyday life

    Sulafa Zidani

    3. Memes, brands and the politics of post-terror togetherness: following the Manchester bee after the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing

    Samuel Merrill and Simon Lindgren

    4. Memetising the pandemic: memes, COVID-19 mundanity and political cultures

    Maria Francesca Murru and Stefania Vicari

    5. ‘Don’t panic people! Trump will tweet the virus away’: memes contesting and confirming populist political leaders during the COVID-19 crisis

    Nete Nørgaard Kristensen and Mette Mortensen

    6. ‘#OkBoomer, time to meet the Zoomers’: studying the memefication of intergenerational politics on TikTok

    Jing Zeng and Crystal Abidin

    7. Memetic commemorations: remixing far-right values in digital spheres

    Tommaso Trillò and Limor Shifman

    8. Sharing the hate? Memes and transnationality in the far right’s digital visual culture

    Jordan McSwiney, Michael Vaughan, Annett Heft and Matthias Hoffmann

    9. Murder fantasies in memes: fascist aesthetics of death threats and the banalization of white supremacist violence

    Tina Askanius and Nadine Keller


    Mette Mortensen is Professor and Deputy Head of Department for Research at the Department of Communication, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

    Christina Neumayer is Associate Professor of Media Studies at the Department of Communication, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.