Ain't I a woman? Female landmine survivors' beauty pageants and the ethics of staring

Rachel A.D. Bloul

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    8 Citations (Scopus)


    The paper addresses the recent flurry of beauty pageants as reintegration rituals which specifically aim at the symbolic integration of some stigmatized embodied identities: Miss HIV (Botswana, 1 Uganda, Nigeria, Zimbabwe but also Russia), Mr or Ms AIDS (Kenya) and the most recent Miss Landmine (Angola, Cambodia). Common reactions to such events betray a most uncomfortable moral quandary: people seem torn between condemnation, repulsion and a very hesitant acknowledgement of the stated aim of positive re-integration. The paper explores this moral discomfort through its relations to a number of unresolved issues: the ambiguous status of beauty, the complex relationships between stigma and (its lack of) public representation, the multiple uses of beauty pageants as integrative rituals and the importance of beauty practices as a means to re-create meaning and dignity in distressing circumstances. Contestants' interviews make it clear that they use the beauty pageants as one of the few - or maybe the only - site allowing for personal, social and political affirmation. The necessary collective dimension of these affirmations is linked to the socio-cultural and political contexts of countries just re-emerging from armed struggle.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3-18
    Number of pages16
    JournalSocial Identities
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


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