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Queens of Academe: Beauty Pageants and Campus Life

Queens of Academe: Beauty Pageants and Campus Life (Hardback)

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Synopsis

Universities are unlikely venues for grading, branding, and marketing beauty, bodies, poise, and style. Nonetheless, thousands of college women have sought not only college diplomas but campus beauty titles and tiaras throughout the twentieth century. The cultural power of beauty pageants continues today as campus beauty pageants, especially racial and ethnic pageants and pageants for men, have soared in popularity. In Queens of Academe, Karen W. Tice asks how, and why, does higher education remain in the beauty and body business and with what effects on student bodies and identities. She explores why students compete in and attend pageants such as "Miss Pride" and "Best Bodies on Campus" as well as why websites such as "Campus Chic" and campus-based etiquette and charm schools are flourishing.

Based on archival research and interviews with contemporary campus queens and university sponsors as well as hundreds of hours observing college pageants on predominantly black and white campuses, Tice examines how campus pageant contestants express personal ambitions, desires, and, sometimes, racial and political agendas to resolve the incongruities of performing in evening gowns and bathing suits on stage while seeking their degrees. Tice argues the pageants help to illuminate the shifting terrain of class, race, religion, sexuality, and gender braided in campus rituals and student life. Moving beyond a binary of objectification versus empowerment, Tice offers a nuanced analysis of the contradictory politics of education, feminism, empowerment, consumerism, race and ethnicity, class, and popular culture have on students, idealized masculinities and femininities, and the stylization of higher education itself.

Karen Tice is Associate Professor in the Department of Gender & Women's Studies and Educational Policy Studies at the University of Kentucky. She is the author of Tales of Wayward Girls and Immoral Women: Case Records and the Professionalization of Social Work (Illinois, 1998).

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