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Performing identities on Facebook : young Bhutanese women becoming 'Kiwi' : a dissertation presented in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Social Anthropology at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
This research traces the experience of resettlement among a family of five Bhutanese refugee women, a single mother and her four teenage daughters. My fieldwork involved ‘hanging out’ with the young daughters in this family. Using participant observation, semi-structured interviews and visual ethnographic methods, my findings reveal the struggles of being low caste single women in a predominantly Hindu refugee community. My participants used their research cameras to take photographs of themselves, tracking these photos led my analyses into the online world of Facebook. This research offers an anthropological enquiry into the impact of Facebook within the daily lives of young refugee women. The visual methodologies used in this project expose the private and complicated identity work that occupies Bhutanese youth in their experiences of learning how to be ‘Kiwi’. Using Judith Butler’s theory of performativity, this research seeks to understand the relationships between these young women and the complicated online and offline worlds they are a part of. My findings problematize universal notions that the identities of young refugees are a ‘singular’ or ‘fixed’ reality, centred on their inherent ‘refugeeness’. Alternatively this research endeavours to bring to light the enabling factors that allow these young women to negotiate the performative process of ‘growing up’ in a new country.
Keywords: performativity, identity, social media, refugee, New Zealand