The selfie speaks a thousand words: Negotiating masculinity, intimacy, and sameness through the photograph in Pune

Rahul Advani


While the selfie has come to symbolize notions of selfhood in the age of social media, the photograph that has become a visual trope across the Facebook accounts of lower-middle-class young men in the western Indian city of Pune offers a different reading of online selfhood. In this article, I discuss the creation of a localized selfie—the “professional selfie”—in which young men stage their masculinity by engaging in a mimetic economy of exchanging characteristics with film heroes. In contrast to Susan Sontag’s () theorization of the intimate photograph, the professional selfie is devoid of interiority. Far from unaware of the camera in the manner described by Sontag, young men in Pune utilize the services of photographers to capture them at a distance and conceal their surroundings, thereby creating relations of social distance and distinction with their peers on Facebook.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/710572