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Language, Globalization and the Making of a Tanzanian Beauty Queen Author: Sabrina Billings

Paperback - 232 pages
29 Nov 2013
Multilingual Matters
210 x 148 (A5)


This book uses a micro-analysis of language in and around Tanzanian beauty pageants to address structural inequalities, gender relations, globalization, as well as educational and language policy. The book paints a picture of how people on the global periphery take part in, and sometimes feel left out of, the wider world.


Sophisticated social theory and the tools of linguistic anthropology join together in this book, a fascinating study of beauty contests in Tanzania that reveals their complex and anxious importance to Tanzanian society. This exploration of the role that language plays in negotiations over the meaning of cosmopolitanism and the morality of gender is linguistic ethnography at its best.
Niko Besnier, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Sabrina Billings' book speaks beautifully to young Tanzanian women's aspirations for cosmopolitan ascent through the global beauty pageant pyramid, contrasting their specifically gendered lot in national sociolinguistic hierarchies. Beauty pageants thus provide the lens through which we can clearly see the enabling and constraining effects of local varieties of English, of Swahili, and of Tanzania's numerous ethnic languages.
Michael Silverstein, University of Chicago, USA

This elegant ethnography makes vivid the role of speech as a measure of beauty in multiethnic Tanzania. Through a lucid discussion of the ways in which aspiring beauty queens are evaluated in national imaginaries, Sabrina Billings shows how speech behaviors are read as emblems of the gender, race, and ethnicity of women aspiring to become national icons of Tanzanian womanhood.
Asif Agha, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Author Biography:

Sabrina Billings is an Assistant Professor of World Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at the University of Arkansas, USA. Her research explores the interconnections of language with gender, education, globalization, and opportunity, especially in urban East Africa.

Readership Level:

Postgraduate, Research / Professional, Undergraduate

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