Beauty Diplomacy: Embodying an Emerging Nation

22 Mar 2023


Announced by the University of Pittsburgh:

Speaker: Kemi Balogun
Oluwakemi (Kemi) M. Balogun is an associate professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Sociology at the University of Oregon. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology with a Designated Emphasis in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. Her work focuses on gender, culture, globalization, nationalism, race, and migration. She is the author of Beauty Diplomacy: Embodying an Emerging Nation (Stanford University Press, 2020). She is also the co-editor of Africa Every Day: Fun, Leisure, and Expressive Culture on the Continent (Ohio University Press, 2019). Her work has been published in outlets such as African Studies Review, Ethnicities, and Gender & Society.

Description: Beauty pageants are big business in Nigeria. They are transformed by multiple stakeholders into contested vehicles for promoting complex ideas about gender and power, ethnicity and belonging, and a rapidly changing articulation of Nigerian nationhood. Drawing from fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork, this talk examines how Nigerian beauty competitions use a tactic I call beauty diplomacy to redeem Nigeria’s poor global reputation. The industry positions beauty contestants – young, upwardly mobile, and ambitious women – as the aesthetic center of an ethnically diverse nation and the public face of a country on the economic rise. Beauty queens are trained and deployed to forge relationships between businessmen and politicians, embody attributes that reflect positively on the country, and cultivate new elevated lifestyles that signal their ascending trajectories. These shifts connect femininity, nation, and beauty to global state politics.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, March 22, 2023 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Sponsored By: 
University of Wisconsin-Madison