“With the Crown, I Have to Give Time”: Beauty Queens, Labor and Diasporic Identity on the Pageant Stage

Authors: Annie Elledge*, University of Texas - Austin, Caroline Faria, The University of Texas at Austin
Topics: Political Geography, Gender, Tourism Geography
Keywords: gender, beauty, diaspora, tourism, Africa
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 9:55 AM / 11:35 AM
Room: Ambassador Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper explores gendered forms of labor and idealized femininity in the Miss Uganda North America (MUNA) pageant as mechanisms for promoting tourism development and economic investment in Uganda. As a part of the Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) Annual Convention, young women of Ugandan descent living in North America compete to become a representative for the diasporic community and a tourism representative for Uganda. Both UNAA and MUNA work to promote economic investment in Ugandan-based businesses, positive trade relationships between North America and Uganda and tourism development in the country. While largely disregarded by critical development studies and tourism geographies, pageants operate as spaces for the construction, perpetuation and promotion of the diaspora and the nation. Through choreographed dances, modeling Ugandan fashions and Q+A speeches, contestants (re)produce ideals of diasporic identities, femininities and labor for the benefit of their community and development initiatives. In this paper, I pay particular attention to the ways in which young women, their bodies and their labor play a critical role in tourism development in Uganda through the promotion of the tourism industry and sponsored trips to the country. Ultimately, I argue that centering beauty and the labor required for beautification offers new ways for analyzing diasporic connection to the nation, tourism development and feminized formations of labor in Geography.

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