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No More ‘Full Moon Faces’: The Anthropology Of Appearance And Social Change Among Young Women In Matrilineal Bhutan
Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - 18:45
Anthropologists have recently explored changes in ideal body size among young American women, confirming what psychologists suggest is an influential 'thinness schema' of female beauty internalized through images of women in film, TV and print media. But is the causal relationship between mass media representations and female beauty exaggerated as these images circulate far away from their culture of origin? In 1999, the Kingdom of Bhutan became one of the last countries in the world to broadcast television. Information and communication technology (ICT) use has jumped since then: 58% of all households owned a TV and 92% a mobile telephone in 2013. How has the recent explosion in global mass media flows affected young Bhutanese women's beauty ideals? What is the impact of these images on their notions of self, on their material bodies? Is the 'thinness schema' spreading? If so, how does it interact with existing cultural models of female beauty, labor and status in a still-largely agrarian society? What are the political and ethical implications of these new 'beauty regimes' in the land of Gross National Happiness? In this paper I address these questions through ethnographic and survey data on the socialization of beauty ideals, body image and self-concept among undergraduate women in Bhutan. Though my initial findings suggest that thin body ideation is high, rising, and correlated specifically to media socialization, I explore its relationship to wider structural transformations in class and gender in Bhutanese society as well as deeper unconscious dynamics of discipline and morality.
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Francis Galton was a key developer and promoter of eugenics in Britain, circa 1900. This included patronage of research and posts at University College. Fast-forward a century. Galton and eugenics have become deeply politicised along the fault-line of “race,” and UCL executives are asked to explain why their institution “celebrates” an individual who activity promoted schemes to harm fellow citizens and who sought to organise the state to only serve the aspirations (or fantasies) of self-selecting, middle class, nativist Anglo-Saxons. In this presentation I will raise some of the questions I’ve seen arising thus far in recent discussions about Galton and his “legacy,” including: self-interested patronage, naïve empiricism, legacy with dissociative identities, empathy-supplied apathy, defensive heritage management, and more. The aim will be a provocation into a discussion: how do we reference the past so as to better move ourselves forward as a community?