VAR SUPPLEMENT: Laurian Bowles on Doing the Snap
Classroom Activities and Discussion Questions
Before reading the article
Bowles argues that “common tourist or journalistic photos” show “African women with a load on her head and a baby tied to her back” (2017:17). Make a brief list of five characteristics of each of these kinds of photographs.
Next, students should peruse promotional materials (websites, your college/university’s study abroad brochures) of nongovernmental organizations, non-profits and anthropology textbooks that focus on Africa and use photographs of women.
Consider the following questions:
- How well do these photographs represent similarly or differently from tourist or journalistic photos?
- Who is the primary audience for these photographs? What are the goals of these photographs?
- What kinds of assumptions do you have as a viewer of these photographs?
- What kinds of questions do these photos raise for you about the people presented in the photograph?
Discussion question to answer after completing the reading:
- How does Bowles’s work contribute to your critique of these images that you looked at before reading the article?
- How successful is the author in bringing greater context to the images that women produced?
- How might stories differ between migrant’s families and their friendship groups in Accra?
- Porters spend large amounts of time waiting for customers and are expected to move quickly through the market once they are hired. How do these tensions foster creativity narratives? What are some of the ways that porters cope with their boredom?
- How does household composition afford women greater work opportunities?
- How do porter habits of “doing the snap” help animate women’s labor?
- In what ways do the images serve as memory-making devices for porters?
- Market women are widely revered in Ghana for their sharp business acumen and financial success. In what ways does Bowles’s study raise questions about who is considered a market woman?
This next exercise encourages students to think critically about the images they create as part of storytelling practices. The goal is to broaden student’s understanding about the way images foster the circulation of narratives and serve as meaning-making for groups.
Look at the five most recent photographs you’ve taken and briefly brainstorm on the social life of these stories by answering the following questions. Then, make a list of the tags or commentary you made about the photographs if you shared them on social media.
- Did you write any tags or comments to the images before you posted?
- Do the images have a social life that is not captured in the post information?
- How does the structure of an image and the text associated with it produce a particular kind of narrative?
- Are there some social significances in the images that are untold in the written text?