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2017 Undergraduate Research Symposium-Eugenia Lollini

Eugenia Lollini “Before the Spectacle: Shaping Gender and Class in Beirut’s Beauty Salons”
Abstract
“Beirut, in the words of one designer…is like a third world country that’s put on some makeup” writes Rima Suqi in a recent article in the New York Times. Indeed, scholars worldwide have coined Beirut the trendsetting beauty city of the Middle East. Striking evidence for this [“this” here would refer to the nickname, not the phenomenon itself includes 2007 National Bank of Lebanon billboards advertising plastic surgery loans and long lines of women waiting outside beauty salons every weekend. Contemporary discourse on the popularity of beauty work in Lebanon is often explained by the reaction to the Lebanese Civil War, and by individualistic attitudes celebrating life, glamour, and living in the moment. However, such assumptions overlook the extent to which familial and social networks constitute the body in Beirut’s interconnected and visual society. My research explores: 1) How social pressure from family members and close friends to engage in beauty work supports the patriarchal family structure; 2) How beauty work in Beirut can become a medium of social distinction among different classes of women; 2) How beauty work may contribute to or resist women’s subordination in society. To complement my salon research, I also examine how public sites such as nightclubs and bars influence the type of beauty work done in salons. In order to achieve this, I study 4) how men and women perform and display their beauty, gender and class in public sites. Most previous studies of Lebanon’s beauty culture focus on the growing number of cosmetic surgery procedures; in contrast, my research addresses non-invasive beauty work.

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