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Louise Rondel, MPhil/PhD Researcher

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Powerfully beautiful, beautifully powerful: The co-constitution of bodies and cities in the beauty salon.

My research examines the co-constitutive relationship between bodies and cities by focusing on the work that goes on in London’s hair and beauty salons in order to understand the ways in which power is both embodied and spatialized and produced, reproduced and potentially contested through material-discursive bodily practices.

My research explores not only why women get beauty work done but also how this work gets done, attending to the embodied, emplaced, multi-sensory, affective, more-than-human encounters in the salon. The ambiguity of beauty work (we are compelled to and complicit in presenting as feminine, but within that there is choice and creativity) means that salons offer exceptional sites from which to examine not only the processes through which bodies become but also the ways in which these bodies (both unconsciously and knowingly) shore up normative expectations of femininity.

In contrast to other research which has looked at beauty practices as inscribing feminised/feminising meanings onto bodies, my research also examines the materiality of beauty salon encounters and looks at objects (fake nails, hair extensions, scissors, spray tans, body hair, the fleshy body itself) as doing things.  Thinking of bodies as processual, as becoming through the repetition and sedimentation of material-discursive practices highlights the ways in which bodies are gendered, sexualised, racialized and classed, some celebrated and some denigrated.  

Moreover, I interrogate what it is that these bodies can do: the capacities of bodies, and, in particular, what they do (and can do) in the city.  Thus my research looks at the ways in which these (beautiful/beautified) bodies produce, reproduce and contest spatial norms and the attending power relations through their inhabitation of and thus their production of urban space.

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