Beauty pageants--as competition and performance--are wildly popular cultural events world-wide. They have, however, received surprisingly little scholarly attention. What literature there is on beauty pageants has mostly been limited to American pageants. This collection brings together studies of pageants in fourteen different cultures. The chapters range from studies of community queen pageants in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Andalusia and rural Minnesota, to studies of international contests held in Thailand, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Tonga and Tibet, and include a study of a Moslem Philippine transsexual beauty queen contest, and an ethnographic account by a contestant in the Miss Moscow 1989 pageant.
These essays discuss the ways gender ideologies are represented and reinforced in beauty pageants and highlight the cultural specificity of notions of beauty and femininity that figure in the selection of pageant queens. We see the strategic and political uses to which pageants are put, by sponsors and contestants alike. Questions of gender aesthetics, performance, and display are engaged in a way that recognizes the agency of pageant participants even as it underscores the ideologies and structures of power within which they operate.
"Beauty Queens on the Global Stage" considers beauty contests as key sites for formulating, negotiating and challenging national and group identities, and shows how identity is portrayed and utilized in an international arena. Each of these essays looks at beauty pageants and contestants in the broader context of struggles over identity.
"The traditional feminist analysis certainly informs these essays, but it gains complexity from its incorporation into a broader scheme. In adddition, the book's international slant highlights an array of tensions that fade into the background when gender is the primary focus."
-"Washington City Paper
"To put it mildly, once you enter this book, you're not in Kansas anymore--or Vermont, Florida or Maine. Th eissues raised here are far more subtle, sophisticated and cosmopolitan than whether that blonde from Fargo can sing. . . . Every year about this time, we 're forced to think about Miss America. . . . "Beauty Queens on the Global Stage sends the mesage that if we really need to expend some brain power in that direction, we ought to put on our thinking tiaras and really do it."
"This volume provides just the kind of new perspective on discussions of local-global phenomena that is required."
"Judges, sponsors, viewers, finance ministers and the would-be queens are on show here as they all contest the meaning of nation, market, and the democracy via the medium of feminine beauty. Cohen, Wilk, and Stoeltje lift the curtain for us on this power-infused international political stage."
-Cynthia Enloe, author of "The Morning After: Sexual Politics at the End of the Cold War
"It is precisely because this coherent, challenging collection--ranging from the whimsically autobiographical to the polemically theoretical--addresses a nominally trivial' topic that it successfully reveals active cultural reformulation among people and peoples commonly denied the capacity for independent agency. The gendered character of these contestslends them enormous potential as sites for the contestation of power and authority, in a world widened far beyond local horizons but accustomed to local and bodily frames of reference."
-MichaelHerzfeld, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University