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College of Wooster

Publication Date

Spring 2013

Program Name

Nepal: Tibetan and Himalayan Peoples

Abstract

This research primarily focuses on the “cultural talent contests” enrolling contestants who are members of the numerous minority ethnic groups residing in Kathmandu. In a growing metropolis, these beauty queens are often seen as symbolic representations of collective cultural identities, and the pageants as fields of active ‘cultural production’. This author surveys the growing literature on beauty pageants and several opinions of organizers, community members and the contestants themselves to better understand how culture is produced within the contexts of pageants. The study examines how beauty pageants operate as locations of commodification and consumption in a world increasingly influenced by global markets and media institutions. An analysis of the social theories constructed by Thorstein Veblen and James Duesenberry help to make sense of the social phenomenon that is beauty pageants. It also illustrates how culture is produced in beauty pageants by examining these events as sites of oppression, sites to articulate cultural agency, and sites of ethnic, gender, cultural, and sexual identity production and exploitation.

Disciplines

Asian Studies | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Race and Ethnicity | Social and Cultural Anthropology

 

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