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Getting Under the Skin Trade: Towards a Global Sociology of Skin-Lightening Practices

Steve Garner Orcid Logo, Somia Bibi Orcid Logo

Sociological Research Online, Start page: 136078042211044

Swansea University Author: Steve Garner Orcid Logo

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Abstract

Skin lightening cuts across multiple and intersecting areas of interest to sociologists. These include consumerism, capital, the body, femininities, masculinities, the power of the media in shaping people’s imaginations, constructions of beauty, and racialised and gendered social relations and repre...

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Published in: Sociological Research Online
ISSN: 1360-7804 1360-7804
Published: SAGE Publications 2022
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URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa64026
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Abstract: Skin lightening cuts across multiple and intersecting areas of interest to sociologists. These include consumerism, capital, the body, femininities, masculinities, the power of the media in shaping people’s imaginations, constructions of beauty, and racialised and gendered social relations and representations, with the legacies of colonial pasts playing out in the present. Here, we set out some key themes, patterns, and frames observed in the multidisciplinary work published on skin lightening, and advocate for the addition of other frames for strategic reasons, which we argue in the second half of the article. Foucault’s technologies of self is recommended as a platform for critiquing individualism and the framing of choice; a political economy approach would help establish that skin lightening is a global business and grasp industry-wide patterns. Finally, a shift to looking at discourse and counter-discourse would reframe women as active agents in cultural resistance and change, and not just the relatively passive dupes of the colonial legacy. We thus map out a broad research agenda that would transform skin lightening into an object of broad, sustained sociological research.
College: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Start Page: 136078042211044