Rhetorical Space and the Virality of the Bring Back Our Girls Campaign


  • Folasewa Olatunde North Carolina State University, Raleigh, USA




social campaigns, rhetorical space, virality, social media, Bring Back Our Girls, rhetoric


On April 14th, 2014, at about 11:35pm, 276 girls were abducted by the insurgent group Boko Haram from their boarding house in Government Girls College, Chibok in Northeast Nigeria. Nigerians, joined by the rest of the world, began to demand that the Nigerian government rescue the abducted girls. This agitation birthed the tagline Bring Back Our Girls. What started as a simple hashtag on Twitter would later become a global campaign tagged Bring Back Our Girls. Rhetorical spaces—virtual, material, and agential— have contributed to the escalation, amplification, and sustenance of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign. In this paper, I argue that social campaigns connect disparate spaces, virtual, material, and agential to propel, amplify and sustain conversations about their causes. This paper looks at the different spaces that added and continue to add agency to the Bring Back Our Girls movement. I conceptualize rhetorical space by drawing upon divergent views from rhetorical scholars and social scientists. To answer the research question—how did rhetorical spaces lend credence to the virality and sustenance of the Bring Back Our Girls movement? — the paper looks at Twitter, the media, public personalities and groups, and offline demonstrations as virtual, material, and agential spaces. This paper concludes that the 'spaces' examined gave credence to the virality of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign by using platforms, positions, and features as social capital to influence the conversation about the campaign. Twitter has been the most fundamental agential and virtual space in the virality and sustenance of the campaign.