The field of Latinx Studies often references split or hyphenated identities. Those who come to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic for example, are often identified (or elect to self-identify) as “Dominican-American.” Relatedly, the Cuban-American scholar, Gustavo Pérez Firmat, notes in his book Life on the Hyphen that this “hyphen” or “minus sign” should be understood and interpreted as a plus sign; Latinos/as are often forced to be “more” American and “more” Cuban, Dominican, Ecuadorian, etc.
I think the act of taking a selfie lends itself to a similar “plus sign” analysis; it is the photographers’ desire to show what “+” they identify with or of which collective groups he, she or they imagine themselves a part. Linda Martín Alcoff’s Visible Identities offers an alternate account of identity – building, among others, on the work of Hegel and Butler – that problematizes self-Other relations and, especially significant as related to the selfie, approaches identity as visible and embodied. Alcoff writes: “We can imagine subjectivity as mind or imagination…But the social identities of race and gender operate ineluctably through their bodily markers; they do not transcend their physical manifestation because they are their physical manifestation” (102). How do we mark our bodies or make our bodies more visible by taking a selfie (or an “usie/us-ie” a term sometimes used to refer to a self-taken photo with more than one person)? If a selfie is a material experience and the body a visible identity, how might the selfie movement (if we consider it as such) mark or define an individual or collective?
An “usie” I recently tweeted with Denise Soler-Cox who presented her documentary “Being Ñ” here at ISU last month.
Learn more about Project Ñ and Dr. Myers’ “plus sign” thought process here: