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Beauty and the Bikini: Embodied Respectability in Nigerian Beauty Pageants

  • Oluwakemi M. Balogun

Abstract:

In the world of Nigerian beauty pageants, the bikini remains a fraught embodied symbol and aesthetic practice. Pageant affiliates, critics, and fans alike strongly debate the question of whether to include bikinis in these events. This article draws primarily from nearly a year of ethnographic observations of two Nigerian national beauty contests in 2009-2010 to show how various stakeholders used personal, domestic, and international frames about women’s bodies, and the bikini in particular, to bolster respectability. Through embodied respectability, women’s figurative and literal bodies were used to strategically situate propriety, social acceptance, and reputability for the self and the nation.

Dans le monde des concours de beauté au Nigéria, le bikini reste un symbole corporel et une pratique esthétique pesante. Les affiliés des concours, les critiques et les supporters, tous contestent ardemment la question d’inclure les bikinis dans ces événements. Cet article s’inspire principalement de près d’un an d’observations ethnographiques de deux concours de beauté nationaux au Nigéria en 2009-2010 pour montrer comment diverses parties prenantes ont utilisé des cadres personnels, nationaux et internationaux sur le corps des femmes et le bikini en particulier, pour renforcer la respectabilité. Par le biais de la respectabilité conçue de sorte, le corps figuratif et littéral des femmes sert à situer stratégiquement la bienséance, l’acceptation sociale et la respectabilité de soi et de la nation.

No mundo dos concursos de beleza nigerianos, o biquíni continua a ser incorporado como um forte símbolo e uma prática estética. Participantes, críticos e fãs desses concursos, todos debatem acaloradamente sobre a questão de incluir ou não o biquíni nestes eventos. Partindo, fundamentalmente, da observação etnográfica realizada ao longo de quase um ano (2009-2010) de dois concursos nacionais de beleza na Nigéria, o presente artigo propõe-se demonstrar o modo como as várias partes envolvidas utilizaram os enquadramentos pessoais, nacionais e internacionais acerca do corpo da mulher, e do biquíni em particular, para reforçar a respeitabilidade. Através de uma respeitabilidade incorporada, os corpos femininos – tanto literais como figurativos – são utilizados para atribuir estrategicamente a propriedade, a aceitação e a reputação social à pessoa e à nação.

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