Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


Digitizing Third World Bodies: Communicating Race, Identity, and Gender through Online Microfinance/A Visual Analysis

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

Radhika Gajjala (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Lynda Dixon (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Ellen Gorsevski (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Shannon Orr (Other)


Microlending through online venues has introduced a new model of lending through web 2.0 communication technologies. I examined micro lending through online venues – such as,, and The theoretical framework is based in Critical Cyberculture Studies and Critical Development Communication using visual analysis (Brummet, 2010; 2011; Mirzoeff, 2009; Nakamura, 2008; Olsen, 2007; Sosale, 2007) as my method, which is supplemented with interviews. I draw in part from visual rhetoric to inform my critique of the interplay of visual images, symbols, texts, and other elements in the microfinance web sites. On the home pages of, and, I analyzed the layout, including visuals and texts on their respective homepages. I examined the communication processes in these web 2.0 portals, because while some sites may indeed empower the poor, other sites may be disempowering to the poor. Kiva, ACCION, and MicroPlace thus reproduce issues of race, identity, and representation online, becoming discursive and rhetorical spaces where race and identity are produced and reproduced in various forms (Nakamura, 2002). Understanding the representations of third-world identities/bodies on micro lending sites is important. Also, global development initiatives such as,, and have wide reaching ramifications; thus, the notion of empowerment of the poor, as reflected on the web portals of,, and, bears scrutiny.