Performing the self in new media: A qualitative study on the experiences of South African Muslim women influencers on Instagram
Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This paper examines how South African Muslim women influencers negotiate the self on Instagram. Drawing from interviews with South African influencers, this research argues that Muslim women influencers perform an “authentic” identity on Instagram in order to find a sense of belonging in society. In this study, Instagram is considered as a new public sphere, where interactions and communication take place in the current era of globalisation. Modesty, piety, hijab and fashion are considered as modes of self-expression that help the participants perform “authenticity”. These will be explored in relation to how the participants use these aspects to curate and portray an “authentic” online identity. The data for this research study has found that the participants commodify their “authentic” identities in order to fit into society, and to make a profit from it, thus enabling them to resist Western stereotypes that depict them as submissive, docile women. Furthermore, their role as influencers requires them to appear as “relatable” and “authentic” as possible, in order to attract an audience, so that they may gain paid collaborations with bigger brands. By portraying their “authentic” religious identity, they are able to appeal to a niche audience of Muslim women, which distinguishes them from other influencers and makes them unique. At the same time, by depicting themselves online as fashionable, modern women, they are able to remain relevant and interesting to their followers. This in turn allows them to assimilate into the new digital public sphere, since Western secular society is understood by minority groups, such as Muslim women, as being the hegemonic culture which they should comply with. Lastly, there is not much existing literature on this topic, especially in the South African context. Therefore, this research can provide insights into the new ways South African Muslim women craft, negotiate, navigate and perform their “authentic” identities in the new public sphere.
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