Purdue University Graduate School
Mattie Thesis Final Final.pdf (1.7 MB)

Morality, Epistemology, and Activism: How Anti-vaccination Advocates on Twitter Construct a Rhetoric of Alternative Immunity

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posted on 2020-08-05, 18:19 authored by Mattie Elizabeth BrutonMattie Elizabeth Bruton
Though it is a centuries old practice, anti-vaccination has become a growing trend since the rise of the internet. Anti-vaccination rhetoric complicates neoliberal beliefs about public health and systems of medical knowledge-making. This study follows 100 Twitter accounts which advance anti-vaccination beliefs. Studying these accounts reveals that anti-vaccination is part of a larger moral and epistemological universe of belief. Anti-vaccination advocates on Twitter use a digital activist identity to create affective networks which draw from epistemologies of conspiracy theory and connect to current political events. Anti-vaccination advocates on Twitter are not uninformed. Rather, they ascribe to their own process of information legitimization. Anti-vaccination advocates on Twitter draw from their complex epistemologies and affective networks to build an alternative immunology which focuses on maintaining the purity of the individual body as a metaphor for protection of the state and of humanity


Degree Type

  • Master of Arts


  • English

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Thomas J. Rickert

Additional Committee Member 2

Jennifer Bay

Additional Committee Member 3

Patricia A. Sullivan

Additional Committee Member 4

Michael J. Salvo