Even as beauty pageants have been critiqued as misogynistic and dated cultural vestiges of the past in the US and elsewhere, the pageant industry is growing in popularity across the Global South, and Nigeria is one of the countries at the forefront of this trend. In a country with over 1,000 reported pageants, these events are more than superficial forms of entertainment.
Beauty Diplomacy: Embodying an Emerging Nation (Stanford UP, 2020) takes us inside the world of Nigerian beauty contests to see how they are transformed into contested vehicles for promoting complex ideas about gender and power, ethnicity and belonging, and a rapidly changing articulation of Nigerian nationhood. Drawing on four case studies of beauty pageants, this book examines how Nigeria's changing position in the global political economy and existing cultural tensions inform varied forms of embodied nationalism, where contestants are expected to integrate recognizable elements of Nigerian cultural identity while also conveying a narrative of a newly-emerging, globally-relevant Nigeria. Oluwakemi M. Balogun critically examines Nigerian pageants in the context of major transitions within the nation-state, using these events as a lens through which to understand Nigerian national identity and international relations.
Lakshita Malik is a doctoral student in the department of Anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her work focuses on questions of intimacies, class, gender, and beauty in South Asia.
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