Beauty, a highly ambivalent concept, has also been described as a "lure" which "seems inescapable" (Felski 2006: 278). This panel seeks to better understand how beauty is both imagined and deployed across a variety of socio-cultural contexts, and as a series of embodied affective processes.
Beauty is an ambivalent concept, a "gendered, racialised and contested symbolic resource" (Craig 2006: 160), but can also be a deeply felt source of motivation and drive. A sizable literature drawing mainly from feminist studies focuses on how beauty plays a role in the currency and exercise of power by examining beauty standards and practices; how beauty impacts women's lives; and how it structures gender relations. Debate in this field has traditionally centred around two opposed poles: beauty as a structuring element of oppression and beauty as a site for female agency (Craig 2006: 164). More recently, the literature has turned to subjective experiences of beauty in relation to women's desires to feel 'normal', as a source of pleasurable practice, or as sites for identity work. However, as Craig rightly states, many accounts still neglect the social locations of their subjects, and while acknowledging the 'white race', middle class and heterosexuality of their subjects, such work tends not address how such social characteristics matter (Craig 2006: 165). This panel invites papers exploring how beauty is both imagined and deployed in particular social and cultural contexts, with an eye towards lived experiences that help us better understand why it is that beauty keeps being such a profound point of concern in people's lives. That is, why, as Felski argues, beauty comes to be a "lure" which "seems inescapable" (Felski 2006: 278), and how beauty can also be understood as a series of embodied affective processes.