Research Thursdays - Nicole Morse’s New Book Examines How Trans Feminine Artists Use Selfies

Thursday, Apr 28, 2022
“Selfie Aesthetics” by Nicole Erin Morse, Ph.D.

In “Selfie Aesthetics” Nicole Erin Morse, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Communication and Multimedia Studies, examines how trans feminine artists use selfies and self-representational art to explore transition, selfhood, and relationality. Morse contends that rather than being understood as shallow emblems of a narcissistic age, selfies can produce politically meaningful encounters between creators and viewers.  

Through close readings of selfies and other digital artworks by trans feminist artists, Morse details a set of formal strategies they call selfie aesthetics: doubling, improvisation, seriality and nonlinear temporality. Morse traces these strategies in the work of Zackary Drucker, Vivek Shraya, Tourmaline, Alok Vaid-Menon, Zinnia Jones and Natalie Wynn, showing how these artists present improvisational identities and new modes of performative resistance by conveying the materialities of trans life. Morse shows how the interaction between selfie creators and viewers constructs collective modes of being and belonging in ways that envision trans feminist futures. By demonstrating the aesthetic depth and political potential of selfie creation, distribution and reception, Morse deepens understandings of gender performativity and trans experience.

Morse received their Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and a BFA from the State University of New York at Purchase. Their areas of expertise include Cinema Studies, New Media, Social Media, Trans Studies, Gender Studies, Queer Theory, Documentary Production.

More information on “Selfie Aesthetics” can be found here Duke University Press - Selfie Aesthetics (

“Nicole Erin Morse’s trailblazing book theorizes the social labor of the selfie, which is created in order to be shared. Far from a symptom of narcissism, the selfie emerges in Morse’s rich readings as a complex aesthetic object that mediates new forms of social practice and ethical demand.” – Damon Young, Associate Professor of French and Film and Media, University of California, Berkeley