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Accepted Paper:

Sources of contestation: the role of digital images for female online entrepreneurship in Sudan  
Griet Steel (Utrecht University)

Paper short abstract:

Inspired by anthropological theories of vernacular image (re)production and regimes of visibility this paper aims to analyze the contested role and ambivalent trajectories of digital images of typical female consumer goods for online vending practices of Sudanese women in the city of Khartoum.

Paper long abstract:

The relatively easy and unlimited possibilities of sharing images through Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook has facilitated many Sudanese online vending initiatives. A growing number of Khartoum's well-educated women develop digital communities to circulate images of cosmetics, fashion accessories, traditional dresses and perfumes in order to sell these commodities online. Most vendors take these low quality images with their own smartphones or they simply reproduce images from online catalogues of eBay and Alibaba. In general, there is lots of contestation on the representativity of the pictures; customers complain about misleading images and the fact that what they see on the screen is not what they get delivered at home. A second strand of contestation is related to the public visibility of the images which has exposed online businesses to unfair forms of competition as images and original fashion designs are recurrently reproduced by other vendors and consumers. In addition, there is continuous debate on what can be seen and shown online in a Muslim society where women have less public visibility. In this paper, I take the commercial images circulating on women's vending platforms as a starting point to scrutinize the highly contested power, meaning and value of the visual in the life worlds of Sudanese women. I follow the digital routes and routines of images to analyze its ambivalences for online vending modalities. With these empirical insights the paper aims to contribute to anthropological debates on vernacular image (re)production and 'regimes of visibility' engendered by new media.

Panel P065
Reassembling the visual: from visual legacies to digital futures [VANEASA]
  Session 1