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Of Beasts and Beauty

Of Beasts and Beauty
Gender, Race, and Identity in Colombia

Here is a detailed investigation of the concept of beauty in Colombia—its cultural and political origins, its expression through fashion and pageants, and its effect on the people of a country plagued by violence, inequality, and corruption.

September 2013
This is a print-on-demand title. Expedited shipping is not available.
292 pages | 6 x 9 | 33 photos, 1 map, 3 tables |

All societies around the world and through time value beauty highly. Tracing the evolutions of the Colombian standards of beauty since 1845, Michael Edward Stanfield explores their significance to and symbiotic relationship with violence and inequality in the country. Arguing that beauty holds not only social power but also economic and political power, he positions it as a pacific and inclusive influence in a country “ripped apart by violence, private armies, seizures of land, and abuse of governmental authority, one hoping that female beauty could save it from the ravages of the male beast.” One specific means of obscuring those harsh realities is the beauty pageant, of which Colombia has over 300 per year. Stanfield investigates the ways in which these pageants reveal the effects of European modernity and notions of ethnicity on Colombian women, and how beauty for Colombians has become an external representation of order and morality that can counter the pathological effects of violence, inequality, and exclusion in their country.




Chapter 1: Setting

Chapter 2: “La mujer reina pero no gobierna,” 1845–1885

Chapter 3: Bicycle Race, 1885–1914

Chapter 4: Apparent Modernity, 1914–1929

Chapter 5: Liberal Beauty, 1930–1948

Chapter 6: Exclusive Beasts, 1948–1958

Chapter 7: From Miss Universe to the Anti-Reina, 1958–1968

Chapter 8: Static Government, Social Evolution, 1968–1979

Chapter 9: Pulchritude, the Palacio, and Power, 1979–1985

Conclusion and Epilogue to 2011


Selected Bibliography



Stanfield is Professor of History at the University of San Francisco and author of two other books, including Red Rubber, Bleeding Trees: Violence, Slavery, and Empire in Northwest Amazonia, 1850–1933.


“The book is successful as an overview of the nation's history, society, and the development of beauty pageants within its borders, and it provides a rich, well-written narrative that is enjoyable to read and full of interesting insights into Colombian culture….Summing Up: Recommended”
Choice magazine

“Stanfield draws primarily from nineteenth-century travelers’ accounts and newspaper and magazine coverage, particularly publications aimed at a feminine audience. Stanfield provides a helpful resource for researchers looking to familiarize themselves with this aspect of Colombian print culture of the last 150 years.”
Hispanic American Historical Review

“A fresh and uniquely insightful interpretation of Colombian culture and nationalism that . . . represents a major breakthrough in the acknowledgment of Colombia’s important place among Latin American nations.”
Jane M. Rausch, Professor Emerita of History, University of Massachusetts, Amherst