Accepted paper:

Finding balance and harmony and challenging dominant discourses of gender and the body: narratives from the Diné


Dimitra Varvarezou

Paper short abstract:

Metaphors surrounding gender and the body provide fertile ground for the exploration of perceptions of beauty. The example of the Diné challenges dominant discourses, and deconstructs hegemonic ideologies of bipolar gender antitheses.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines perceptions of the body and beauty among the Diné (Navajo). I explore narratives from research participants on social perceptions of mobility differences among the Diné. I link constructions surrounding beauty and the body to gender perceptions. The case of the Diné offers new insights on how notions of harmony and balance are embodied and emphazised through gender identity,performativity, and interpersonal relationships. My work situates gender and metaphors of balance and harmony within a particular frame of thought, which research participants define as "pure Navajo thought" (nitsahakes). Traditional gender interpretations among the Diné acknowledge that any individual embodies both male and female gender characteristics. Maintaining balance between these gender valences is an expression of beauty. Furthermore, gender lends itself to a further exploration of social change. Narratives reveal a growing awareness of the shift of perceptions of the body and gender. Research participants link these discourses to the infiltration and (self) appropriation of dominant gender identity constructions, which contradict these principles of harmony and balance.

panel P39
'Alternative' beauty in 'alternative' communities, scenes and subcultures