Life on Campus / Spring 2015
A+ in Selfies

A UTSC anthropology assignment gives students a new view of the selfie


UTSC prof Maggie Cummings with her students. Photo courtesy of Maggie Cummings

UTSC prof Maggie Cummings with her students. Photo courtesy of Maggie Cummings

“Anthropologists learn by doing fieldwork,” says Maggie Cummings, a lecturer at UTSC. So when she’s teaching the cultural politics of visual representation, what better assignment than to ask students to take – and analyze – a selfie? “A lot of professors think of cellphones as the enemy,” says Cummings, “but I wanted to actually use the phone as a tool and look at it as a cultural artifact.”

Her students loved the assignment. “They had fun; they created fantastic photos and said really interesting things in their papers,” says Cummings. After a class discussion about narcissism and selfies, one male student took a picture with a female friend in the background, trying on lipstick in a mirror. “He wrote a great paper,” says Cummings, “questioning the norms of the objectification of women that we take for granted.”

 


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