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Title: Saudi Women Instagram Microcelebrities: Self-(Re)presentations, Messages, and Aspects Guiding Their Performances
Authors: Lary, Ruaa
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: The Saudi women microcelebrity is a relatively new phenomenon, negotiating the sociocultural norms of women’s visibility. These microcelebrities have grasped the attention of the media and the Saudi society where some have viewed them as controversial, while other have perceived them as a (re)presentation of the new ideal women within the rapid developments of contemporary Saudi Arabia (N. Altuwayjiri, 2019). This thesis adopts a social constructivist approach to understand the gender discourse that underpins the messages produced in Saudi Arabia by these microcelebrities on Instagram, through placing the lens of focus on 12 Saudi women microcelebrities. The aim was to explore how these women consider what they want to convey in their posts, the substantive message content, and how their visibility replicates, reinforces, or challenges traditional renditions of femininity. Understanding gender discourse in this study is achieved through investigating (i) the process of its production by adopting Goffman (1956) dramaturgy theory to understand the performance component of the microcelebrities as ‘self-presentation’; and (ii) the resulting meanings that are constructed by exploring the media texts and images they produce as ‘representation or self-representation’ (Hall, 1997; Rettberg, 2016; Thumim, 2012). I do that throughout the study by considering and merging them both as one component of understanding the process and meaning through the microcelebrities’ self-(re)presentations. I utilised a mixed methodology that featured the netnographic qualitative and quantitative analysis of 600 Instagram posts, complemented by semi-structured interviews with a sample of 12 women microcelebrities. The qualitative thematic analysis of both the interviews and posts provides a nuanced understanding of the intentions that underpin their post content and the messages contained within, as well as the aspects that shape these messages and self-(re)presentations on Instagram. The quantitative content analysis of the posts informs the qualitative findings by identifying the recurring patterns and themes. By adopting Fraser’s (2001) concept of ‘counterpublic’, I coin the term ‘expanded public space’, suggesting that as a social media platform Instagram provides expanded opportunities for Saudi women through expanding their public visibility. This expanded public space expands the range of self-expression, the range of entrepreneurial prospects, and the range of inclusivity in ways that are unique to non-virtual public spaces. However, I also claim that this expanded space is not completely empty of influence in relation to how Saudi women microcelebrities’ (re)present themselves. Through adopting Wilhelm (2021) patterns of digital gendered visibility, I argue that the Saudi women microcelebrities’ presence in a public space such as Instagram provides complex interrelated and diverse meanings that can at times replicate and reinforce the traditional renditions of femininity, while at other times resisting and challenging these renditions through (re)presenting ‘varied levels of visibility’, new norms, and voice. I further establish that Saudi women microcelebrities’ self- (re)presentations on Instagram (re)present new ideals of femininity that contain elements of Gill’s (2007b, 2017) postfeminist sensibilities within the transitional context of a conservative society. Keywords: Instagram; Women; Microcelebrities; Saudi Arabia; Self-presentation, Self representation, Visibility; Social media; Culture; (Re)presentation
Description: Ph. D. Thesis.
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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