Myers: Defining One’s Self and Collective

CATEGORIES: November 2016

by Dr. Megan Myers

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.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: