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The beautiful 'other': a critical examination of 'western' representations of Afghan feminine corporeal modernity

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This paper examines corporeal modernity as part of the larger 'savior and liberation' trope produced for Afghan women by US-led military, political and economic intervention post-9/11. This savior trope has been identified as a co-optation of women's rights discourses and activism (Hunt 2002), a misguided approach to security through gendered scripts of masculine aggressive protection and female submission (Young 2003; Dowler 2002), and as yet another example in a long history of gendered tropes devised by colonial and imperial powers to save Muslim women (Abu Lughod 2002). This study adds to existing feminist critiques of US intervention in Afghanistan by examining the Beauty Academy of Kabul and the participation of Miss Afghanistan in the 2003 Miss Earth Pageant as particular lenses through which the economic and corporeal 'liberation' of Afghan women was presented in the US. This economic approach occurs at the site and scale of the body in order to (re)define corporeal modernity through corporate driven, heteronormative, and hegemonic beauty standards.
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Keywords: Afghanistan; body politics; corporeal modernity; economic development; gender

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Geography Department and Women's and Gender Studies Program, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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