What does it mean to be Miss America? Baki Mani examines the central role that beauty pageants hold for first- and second-generation South Asian Americans. For young South Asian women onstage, pageants are a means to proclaim their sense of belonging - as racial minorities and as women - to normative ideals of U.S. citizenship. For first-generation South Asian audience members and pageant sponsors, these young women represent the class mobility of an established immigrant group. I discuss the iconic figure of the beauty queen in relation to the annual Miss India U.S.A. pageants in New York and California, as well as in relation to the Miss India pageants in India. Delineating these transnational networks of beauty, culture and capital enables us to understand why Miss America 2013, Nina Davuluri, is celebrated and condemned for her embodiment of what it means to be American.
Baki Mani, Associate Professor of English, Swarthmore College, author of Aspiring to Home (Stanford 2012), a study about South Asian Americans, diaspora, and belonging. She includes a discussion of beauty pageants in her book.
Co-sponsored by the Multicultural Center, the Departments of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies as well as the South Asian Studies Program