Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Women's and Gender Studies
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Women's Studies
Much of my coursework in my major, Women’s and Gender Studies, focuses on the way that certain identities have been privileged, oppressed, stereotyped and marginalized both socially and systematically on local and global scales. In particular, I study how societal institutions disadvantage and discriminate against non-hegemonic groups of people and the resistance and collaboration that these people have engaged in to challenge the dominant institutions.
These themes inspired me to design and create a collaborative photography collection on oppression and stereotyping among students at Syracuse University. The photographs are based on histories and stories that my participants shared with me regarding their own oppressed and stereotyped identities. I met with each participating student in order to discuss their background and record how the student’s oppressed and stereotyped identity, status, or social location impacts the student’s daily life, interactions, and relationships. Most of the students specified several scenarios, situations, or daily occurrences that demonstrate the ways their identities are stereotyped, whether based on one or many axes of their social locations.
Each participant and I collaboratively constructed two situations from which to photograph, so that each participant is photographed twice. The first picture portrays their stereotype through a genuine, real encounter they experienced. The second picture displays their real personality and characteristics that they chose to illustrate their identity, giving students an empowering opportunity to challenge their own stereotypes.
In addition, I created a blog showing several of the students’ pictures. Each picture has a corresponding discussion question, with the purpose of initiating further discussion about the issues of representation and stereotyping in that student’s photograph. Students are therefore able to learn from one another and debate how students are privileged, oppressed, and stereotyped at Syracuse University. I set up the blog in a way that students can actively participate in the project and its themes, even though they were not photographed themselves.
I strategically chose to use photography and blogging to exemplify my work in Women’s and Gender Studies. Aside from photography being a powerful tool of empowerment, it allows its viewers to individually interpret the pictures and the identities being portrayed. Students are therefore able to think critically about their own privileged and oppressed social locations.
The blog, on the other hand, serves to encourage people in my generation, especially students at Syracuse University, to become aware of and involved in their own environment. A blog is a very effective mechanism to do so because of how popular culture and the media are significant influences on the lives of the student population.
I feel the power of this project lies in its ability to engage students to think critically about their daily interactions with other members of the Syracuse University community. It has the potential for students to feel empowered and inspired to work together and form collaborations. From these collaborations, students can continue to build solidarities that both relate one another and that challenge oppressive institutions.
Weill, Jennifer Dana, "Collaborating for Social Change: Photographic Empowerment and Activist Blogging" (2010). Honors Capstone Projects - All. 398.
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