IPC VRA Lecture on “Reconceptualizing Beauty in Post-colonial Philippines”


September 4, 2018



This presentation will elucidate how national conceptions of beauty, rooted in the Spanish and American colonial periods, play out in a local context. On Siargao Island, increasing numbers of Filipinas are entering into romantic relationships with Amerikanos as international surf tourism in the island booms. Many Filipinas have become proficient surfers themselves, and many more find new forms of employment within the burgeoning local tourism industry. Understandings of beauty are thus influenced at the local level by cosmopolitan romance, changing employment opportunities and upward social mobility, as well as identification with global surf culture. In this context, a paradox has arisen whereby local Filipinas gain new confidences in themselves, yet the idea of the inferior Filipino is both naturalised and reproduced as Filipinas unfavourably compare local men to Amerikanos. The women draw on imaginings reminiscent of past colonial stereotypes of the Oriental Other whilst doing so, typically characterising local Filipino men as ‘bad’ and ‘ugly’.

About the Lecturer

Karen Hansen is a PhD candidate (Anthropology) in the College of Arts and Social Science, at the Australian National University in Canberra. Karen first visited the Philippines in 2007 and returned several times throughout 2013 and 2014. She conducted 12 months of fieldwork on Siargao Island for her PhD in 2016, and has recently completed a final two months of fieldwork in July-August of this year, also on Siargao Island.