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Research Paper

How is self-portraiture used to explore, liberate and redefine identities encompassed by contemporary intersectional feminism?

This research paper asks: what is the case for non-white, non-cis—gendered, non-heterosexual, lower-class members of global society? Moreover, how is self-portraiture used in order to explore, and liberate these forms of intersectionality, so as to redefine identities encompassed by contemporary intersectional feminism? This research paper directly recognises that white, cis-gendered women existing within Western society have been appreciated and provided a platform for visibility throughout feminist discourse.

Using an intersectional feminist framework, the neglect of intersectionality throughout feminist history is observed throughout the paper. It questions how embodiment of intersectionality in the visual – and for an audience – starts new conversations about deep-rooted, internalised prejudice. Similarly, the paper dissects how self-portraiture can act as a mode of exploration and liberation of intersectionality in order for reclamation of identity and prejudicial experience. Artists such as Zanele Muholi and Yasumasa Morimura are used as examples of self-portraitists actively extending and redefining intersectional feminist dialogue to encompass racial, sexual, gender, and class intersectionalities.

The paper then suitably critiques contemporary use of personal self-portraiture outside of accredited arts practitioners. The selfie as a self-explorative, self-liberating tool is then questioned using a neoliberal feminist framework. Whilst the research paper acknowledges that contemporary self-portraiture can serve a greater sense of self to its author (Zhang 2017), it critically reflects on the globalised contemporary context in which the selfie sits. Furthermore, the paper examines how the selfies contemporary context can hinder productivity for intersectional feminism. It is through these analyses that the paper is able to determine the many complexities surrounding self-portraiture as a self-searching and self-emancipating tool.

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