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Working on the Body: The Practice of Skin Bleaching

AuthorsMartí Pérez, Josep
Issue Date2014
PublisherCambridge Scholars Publishing
CitationAfrican Realities: Body, Culture and Social Tensions : 249-274 (2014)
AbstractThe body modification practice of skin whitening can be understood as a strategic resource for coping with social tensions arising from colourism, the ideology that gives privilege to light-skinned people of colour over their dark skin counterparts (Hunter 2002). Since decades ago, skin whitening has been a ve1y widespread practice in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly among women. The market provides a wide variety of cosmetics that are used for this purpose, very often with clearly detrimental consequences for the body. In this paper, which is centred in Equatoguinean society, I will present data on the "maquillaje" (makeup), the popular denomination for the skin depigmentation practice in Equatorial Guinea. In this kind of practice, both visions and values related to the dimension of gender, as well as those that have to do with the notion of social presentation of the body and corporeal capital, converge. If on the one hand, the "maquillaje" is understood as one of the new body technologies that offers modernity, on the other, within the same Equatoguinean society, there is also a little, but growing, tendency towards a critical view of such practices because of the damages they cause to the body as well as the racist connotations of colourism. This paper is based on data collected in various fieldwork trips carried out recently in Equatorial Guinea.
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