Entrepreneurs of love: digital photographic displays and reconfiguration of intimate relations among young Bamileke women living in Yaounde (Cameroon)
(University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
In this paper I examine how young women living in Yaounde use photographs to foster intimate relationships. I argue that the ways in which printed and digital photographs are used articulate different visual economies of affect.
Paper long abstract:
Young women 'stuck in the compound' are limited in calling for male desire through their various dress styles. Luckily visual calls for attention can be extended through photographs. Thus, via android phone young woman photograph their dress styles, edit and display them online on social networks in order to solicit desire often among men living abroad, at times without leaving one's bed. If young women aim to solicit male desire through display of digital images, the involvement of photographs in construction of intimate relationships is far from new. Printed black and white photographs, usually of young men, traveled from cities to villages at the height of the urban-to-rural migration in Cameroon, as a part of marriage negotiations. As material objects, printed photographs entered exchange relationships between families and maintained importance of physical attraction for stable marriage between those to marry, even in polygamy. Crucially, as material objects that could be gifted, printed photographs articulated visual economy of affect where material and affective aspects are interweaved. Yet young women most often display digital images, which entangle material and affective aspects in a different way. Young women thicken their digital images adding layers of attractiveness as they edit their photographs to lure men online. Digital online display also encourages frequent updates and surveillance of others heightening young women's competition on the digital marriage market. Digital displays articulate a new visual economy of affect that combines ideologies of romantic love and market capitalism in which young women act as 'entrepreneurs of love'.
Photographs as objects of affective connection and disruption