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Pure Beauty: Judging Race in Japanese American Beauty Pageants

REBECCA CHIYOKO KING-O’RIAIN
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 292
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttsx3f
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  • Book Info
    Pure Beauty
    Book Description:

    Rebecca Chiyoko King-O'Riain studies Japanese American community beauty pageants in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Honolulu to discover how these pageants seek to maintain racial and ethnic purity amid shifting notions of cultural identity. Pure Beauty shows how racial and gendered meanings are enacted through the pageants, and reveals their impact on Japanese American men, women, and children.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9837-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Negotiating Racial Hybridity in Community Beauty Pageants
    (pp. 1-20)

    Increasing hybridity within community boundaries is changing what it means to be Japanese American. This book examines how that meaning is being negotiated and renegotiated in Japanese American beauty pageants. While the construction of Japanese American ness has never been static and continues to change within a mono racial framework, a particularly significant shift from a primarily mono racial to a more multiracial understanding of the community occurred after the 1960s. This demographic shift has carried with it a cultural challenge to the biological definition of race, which we will see in the time periods covered in this book. The...

  5. 1 Race Work and the Effort of Racial Claims
    (pp. 21-36)

    Mixed race does not mean the end of race as a concept or as a product of biological race thinking, where racial meaning is congealed and tied through its supposed association to the body to biology. Indeed the mixed -race body invites us to examine more carefullyrace work—people worked hard around the pageants to keep the biological notion of race (typically references to looks or physical appearance) in line with their thinking about culture (i. e., full-blooded people of color have culture, whites don’t). In order to shed light on how race is socially and politically constructed in...

  6. 2 The Japanese American Community in Transition
    (pp. 37-58)

    This questioning of mixed-race people as to whether or not they are Japanese “enough” is an issue for mixed-race people within the Japanese American community. Paul Spickard in his book,Mixed Blood, examined how the offspring of Japanese women and American men, both black and white, were often harassed and faced racist treatment not only from white and other racial/ethnic groups, but also from within the Japanese American ethnic group. In particular, if Japanese women had married African American servicemen, their children were treated with disdain and cast out from Japanese society (1989, 148; Williams 1991).

    Similar racial hierarchies still...

  7. 3 Japanese American Beauty Pageants in Historical Perspective
    (pp. 59-73)

    Throughout the years, Japanese American beauty pageants have revealed the challenges of community defi nition, gender, and racial identity politics being played out in the name of the local Japanese American community in their pageants. The historical context of the evolution, change, and persistence of Japanese American beauty pageants in the four cities I studied illustrate their role as the touchstones for the community. In each of the eras discussed, it is clear that the beauty pageants refl ect larger anxieties present in the community about feminism, nationhood, and multiraciality. While all the communities examined are Japanese American and all...

  8. 4 Cultural Impostors and Eggs: Race without Culture and Culture without Race
    (pp. 74-115)

    Within the context of Japanese American beauty pageants, mixed-race Japanese American women neither destroy the concept of race nor bridge the Caucasian and Japanese American communities. In fact, it is clear that these particular Japanese American mixed-race women worked quite hard and quite deliberately to reproduce race as a concept and to legitimate themselves as racial subjects even as they were arguing for multiple racial identities. Mixed-race women, then, in this instance problematize the relationship between race and ethnicity/culture. They don’t just destroy this assumed relationship, but instead reinvigorate it in their race work.

    Pierre Van den Berghe argued that...

  9. 5 Patrolling Bodies: The Social Control of Race through Gender
    (pp. 116-147)

    Having looked at how race and ethnicity are constructed through individual racial claims being “done” in the pageant, this chapter looks more closely at the process of race work (how race and ethnicity are produced) and their link to social control. This racial production process is also a process of turning women into queens through the training and practicing to be queen. Like race, gender and class were also performed in the different cities and regions on the stages of Japanese American beauty pageants. The moral link between gender and racial appearance and particularly the adornment (or lack thereof) of...

  10. 6 The “Ambassadress” Queen: Moving Authentically between Racial Communities in the United States and Japan
    (pp. 148-185)

    How did the racialized meanings factor into the candidates’ motivations to participate in the first place? While their motivations varied, certain trends appeared in their expressed reasons for participating in this grueling exercise, the Japanese American beauty pageant. As we saw in the last chapter, there were many acceptable ways of framing participation in the pageant, and the most prevalent way of rationalizing participation was by claiming participation as an extension of community service, cultural preservation, or cultural learning.

    Framing their participation in the pageant as community service allowed candidates to emphasize the Japanese American cultural values of giving back...

  11. 7 Percentages, Parts, and Power: Racial Eligibility Rules and Local Versions of Japanese Americanness in Context
    (pp. 186-226)

    This chapter extends the discussion of race in the local Japanese American communities to show how institutional forces and structural characteristics and pressures can shape racial projects. Specifically, it examines how Japanese Americanness is negotiated collectively in relation to other racial and ethnic communities through local beauty pageants. I examine how definitions of Japanese Americanness in racial terms are narrowed on more macrolevels of social interaction. Larger structural forces such as political and economic power and demographic size strongly shaped race, culture, ethnicity, and gender throughout the beauty pageants. This chapter illustrates how Japanese Americanness has been constructed and reconstructed...

  12. Conclusion: Japanese Americanness, Beauty Pageants, and Race Work
    (pp. 227-234)

    The japanese american beauty pageants in the four cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Honolulu share many similarities, but this book has focused on how race is conceptually made and remade through race work in unique ways in each of the four social contexts. The racial projects that spring from each of these contexts have been different, but they are united by racial eligibility rules that determine in this particular cultural institution of beauty pageants who can and cannot symbolically represent the Japanese American community as queen. This is not to say that the pageants are necessarily a...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 235-238)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-254)
  15. Index
    (pp. 255-276)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-277)