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Accepted Paper:

Equivocally Tinder: Navigating rigid identity categories in Cape Town  
Leah Junck (University of Cape Town)

Paper short abstract:

Tinder dating in Cape Town (South Africa) is both: reinforcing rigid identities and embraced as a space for emancipation and agency. This ethnographic study looks at the coexistence of different experiences, imaginations and discursive formations when it comes to technologies like Tinder.

Paper long abstract:

Digitisation processes tend to be seen as instigators of dramatic change, wrongfully attributing autonomy to technologies and distracting from how humans both draw on established repertoires and expand on them. My research urges for examinations of digital technologies that are more nuanced and capture their ambiguities by looking at how they become integrated into everyday life. In this spirit, I followed the dating journeys of 25 Tinder users in Cape Town (South Africa) for two years, considering the extent to which the dating application (app) offers a space for emancipation and agency - and how it may reinforce rigid identities. I found Tinder to be embraced as a tool with potential for new imaginations, including the transgression of certain embodied gendered/racialised/classed roles. At the same time, it was considered limiting and thought to produce encounters that are ‘less authentic’ than other modes of relating. With frustrations accumulating, the app would frequently be deleted, just to be downloaded again. Approaches to using it would change each time. Tinder users were faced with unitary understandings of the self at different intersections of dating, notably also through the set-up of the app itself. These then became manoeuvred in the form of a dance with only some basic steps providing guidance. The continuous use of Tinder in searching for desire and meaning despite frustrations and frequent deletions of the app can be interpreted as a rejection of what the app portrays as unequivocal identities.

Panel P124a
(Un)Gendered experiences in the virtual space
  Session 1 Wednesday 27 July, 2022, -