Beauty Diplomacy:Embodying an Emerging Nation (Stanford University Press) is a study of beauty pageants in Nigeria, showing how contestants embody and experience contradictory ideas of gender, class and citizenship. Through her extensive research, including interviews, participant observation and archival research, demonstrates how contestants are expected to be ‘authentically’ African and global, from a particular region of the country and represent all of Nigeria, upwardly mobile but not elitist. Her study of beauty pageants also brings to light the way in which they and the winners of them have been and continue to be used to project Nigeria to the world in a positive light. Balogun pushes us to rethink the gendered dynamics of global politics alongside those of beauty pageants.
In a Nigeria where people first identify with an ethnic or regional identity, Balogun, on the one hand, shows how beauty pageants are choreographed to become the embodiment of Nigerian nationalism and how, through pageantry, Nigeria tries to shed its negative image and become globally relevant. On the other hand, she shows the evolving nature of pageantry in Nigeria and the unreasonable and burdensome expectations of beauty queens from family, the nation and the state. In a very apt analysis of the reaction of the state to protests against the Miss World 2002 and the FIFA under-17 World Cup, Balogun show how diplomacy is linked to masculinity. In essence, beauty diplomacy though important and craved by the state, can be discarded in times of conflict. Balogun’s emersion in the process of research as a participant observer brings a lot of richness to this very relevant book on “gendered” diplomacy and the re-making of Nigeria as a global player through beauty pageants.
Dr. Balogun is an Associate Professor in Women's & Gender Studies and Sociology at the University of Oregon. Her research focuses on the formation of collective identity in a global world, specifically within the domains of immigration and nationalism primarily within Nigeria and the Nigerian Diaspora.
The 2021 Book Prize committee selected two winners for the Aidoo-Snyder Prize for best scholarly work: Oluwakemi Balogun’s Beauty Diplomacy: Embodying an Emerging Nation and Jacqueline-Bethel Tchouta Mougoué’s Gender, Separatist Politics, and Embodied Nationalism in Cameroon.