Wednesday 18 November 2015

Guest Blog: Performing Identities on Facebook: Young Bhutanese Women and 'Selfie' Photos

I met Jessica about a year ago, at a mutual friends 21st Birthday when we discovered we were both completing our Master's degrees in Anthropology - we met again, a few months later, at an Anthropology conference in Queenstown and the paper she presented on her research was amazing to say the least. After getting to know Jessica and learning more about her research, I knew she needed to guest blog for us here at Anthsisters! Jessica's MA research traced the re-settlement experiences of five Bhutanese refugee women: a single mother and her four teenage daughters. The visual methodologies used in this project exposed the complicated "body appearance work" that Bhutanese women willingly undergo as they learn how to be 'Kiwi' women, as well as the many ways social media is used to negotiate these experiences. This post is based on her research - enjoy!

- Tayla

Jessica Halley is a Massey University Graduate and a social anthropologist by trade, her ongoing interest in life history analysis and women's stories has shaped her research projects. Her research interests include identity construction, migration, new media technology, visual ethnography, globalisation and women's stories. Having completed her master's thesis, Jessica is currently teaching at Massey University and is preparing embark on a PhD.

If you want to talk to Jessica about her research, contact her on:


Reflecting on the many pathways this research took, I can see that the course of my analyses was organised by the visual methodologies I used. At its roots, visual ethnography endeavours to explore and comprehend visual manifestations of culture and identity. This means that the items we have in our lives, the clothes we wear, the pictures and films we enjoy are often indirect displays of our cultural backgrounds or individual identity.

As an anthropologist, I was aware that my research focused on a vulnerable group, refugee women. If I was behind the camera lens and spent my fieldwork photographing them, I would have power over the direction of this research. I wanted the direction of this project to be guided by my participants. To achieve this, the participants needed to be behind the camera lens, so I relinquished control over my research and provided four young refugee women with digital cameras. I asked them to make a photo album that experienced their identities.