Un trato personalizado: Intimate labor and transnational place-making at the ethnic beauty parlor

Authors: Vivian Rodriguez Rocha*, Penn State University
Topics: Latin America, Gender, Social Geography
Keywords: intimate labor, feminist geography, everyday politics, latina entrepreneurship, gendered migration, transnational placemaking
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Governor's Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The beauty parlor has recently been of interest to feminist geographers interrogating gendered negotiations around nation, modernity, identity, and religion in everyday spaces (e.g.: Fluri 2009, Augis 2014, Faria 2014). However, little attention has been paid to the intimate attention that stylists offer their clients and its role in place-making. In this paper I use intimate labor theory (Boris and ParreƱas 2010) to complicate narratives of salon-going through the lenses of race, gender, and consumption. My research looks at everyday work experiences of hair stylists and their Spanish-speaking clientele at a Mexicana-owned and operated beauty parlor in south Austin. Heeding the call of recent literature on the global intimate (Pratt and Rosner 2012), I understand the hair salon as both a physical, grounded space, and as a place constituted through the lived experiences and embodied practices of stylists, clients, and the larger anti-immigration climate that prevails in Texas. Inspired by theories of transnational spaces (Boyce Davis 2013) and immigrant adaptation through entrepreneurship (Verdaguer 2009), I take note of the many uses that the salon serves for the people that inhabit and produce it. Ultimately, I position styling in the ethnic beauty parlor as a form of reproductive labor for Spanish-speaking immigrant communities in Austin, and the hair salon as a political and politized site where patrons share their concerns, offer each other advice, and strategize potential responses to the current political climate.

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