The selfie reframed: contemporary visual practices in Mumbai

Savnal, Ketaki Amarnath (2023) The selfie reframed: contemporary visual practices in Mumbai. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Since “selfie” was named the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Year in 2013, the concept has received varied and robust academic attention. In India, the genre of photography gained popularity after it was successfully deployed in Narendra Modi’s national campaigns in 2015 and became synonymous with ideas of national pride and success. In this thesis, I examine selfie cultures in three distinct spaces in Mumbai: locality-specific “selfie points” built throughout the city by political and commercial actors; the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, an annual ten-day public contemporary arts festival; and the Ganapati utsava, the annual eleven-day public Hindu festival celebrating Lord Ganesha. By using the selfie as a lens to examine visual practices in these distinct cultural spaces, I demonstrate overlaps and disjunctures in the fields of politics, artistic exhibition and protest, and Hindu devotion. I also examine selfie objects and images published on digital platforms from these spaces, to address questions of identity and self-presentation in urban India. I adopt arguments that visibilise the influence of social media algorithms on these spaces, while also grounding my discussion of selfie cultures in the Hindu practice of darshan, a mode of worship which privileges the eye and the process of seeing and being seen by the deity, and the widely celebrated practice of jugaad or creative workaround, popular in informal economies in India. Proposing a reframing of the selfie, I demonstrate how the genre of photography is a mode of consistent, affective, embodied engagement in urban India. I use ethnographic field-based research methods, including interviews, video recording and autoethnographic reflection in conjunction with qualitative digital research methods like crowdsourcing on Instagram. This thesis contributes towards an understanding of contemporary Indian culture and offers the field of global digital studies insights into imagined digital affordances in the Indian context.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Art, Media and American Studies
Depositing User: Nicola Veasy
Date Deposited: 01 Jul 2024 13:38
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2024 13:38


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