The Media Studies department offers its warm congratulations to two students who recently completed their Master of Arts by research, and were both awarded distinctions! Simphiwe Rens (left) and Jessica Pereira (right) were supervised by Prof Mehita Iqani (centre), who says she is extremely proud of both students. "They chose original topics, worked really hard, and stayed focused!".
Jessica Pereira wrote a thesis titled Believe in Yourself(ie): A study of young, ordinary, South African women who share selfies on Instagram.
This study examines, from a feminist perspective, why young, ordinary, South African women take selfies. The aim of the research was to determine whether or not the act of selfie-taking allows for the appropriation and re-positioning of the male gaze; affording young women opportunities for representing themselves in empowering and more favourable ways. The study aimed to discover the extent to which the act of selfie-taking actually contributes to or results in a liberating performance of gender and sexuality against a victimhood of female objectification. What does this very specific practice of self-representation mean to young, ordinary, South African women? And, why do they deem it necessary to share such intimate and private images on such vast public platforms? Is it simply a manifestation of narcissism, or are there actually underlying significances behind the practices of selfie-taking? Framed by theories of narcissism, self-management, and post-feminism, the study makes a contribution to the growing literature on selfies, the study undertook in-depth interviews with young women, using their own Instagram profiles as a visual aid. Presenting detailed qualitative evidence, the thesis argues that although self-created self-portraits are typically regarded by society as proof of cultural – or at least generational – narcissism and moral decline, there is a connection between selfie practices and the negative perception of selfie-takers. The thesis also argues that selfies provide young women with opportunities to send different messages to different individuals and audiences as well as to represent themselves in very particular ways.
Simphiwe Emmanuel Rens wrote a thesis titled Striving Towards 'Perfection'? Investigating the Consumption of Self-help Media Texts by Black South Africans in Post-Apartheid.
This research project studie the consumption of 'self-help' media texts with respect to black South African audiences in an attempt to contribute to expanding debates on race, class, identity and media consumption. Based on in-depth interviews with 10 avid self-help consumers, the paper develops an argument for the role of self-management in race and other social identities. The deployment of the qualitative methodology of a thematic discourse analysis of over seven hours of interview transcripts assists this paper in providing an account of where, when and how self-help media manifests in the lives of the chosen participants. The paper finds that participants are motivated to consume self-help media texts by a need to know and understand themselves and others in order for these participants to acquire what they express to be an atmosphere of interrelation harmony. A growth of media texts forming part of a genre related to the practice of therapy in South Africa is owed to what I argue as a deep-rooted culture of 'reconciliation' and a preoccupation with emotions which stems from a particularly murky socio-political past still in a constant state of reparation (prevalent in discourses about reconciliation and forgiveness) in the democratic dispensation. This has paved the way for a culture of 'treatment' and 'remedy' becoming what this paper refers to as a 'public affair'. Active participants on these self-help, often therapeutic, media texts on mass media platforms regularly do so at the expense of exposing deeply personal issues to 'experts' who are trusted to assist with 'healing' what are deemed to be problem areas in people's lives. Referred to by some of the interviewees as 'brave hearts', these participants ('public confessors') hold a complex position in the minds of the interviewed individuals who, ironically, express admiration and respect to the individuals who publicly testify and confess as they are a valued reference of 'learning' but at the same time, an expression of disappointment and shame is bestowed upon these 'public confessors' for allowing their argued exploitation by the media. Amidst all this, it is apparent that consumption of self-help media texts have particularly intricate influences on the patterns of self-identity as constructed by the participants of this research project.