Imagining Caribbean womanhood

Race, nation and beauty competitions, 1929-70

By Rochelle Rowe

Imagining Caribbean womanhood


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5033-2
  • Pages: 224
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £21.00
  • Published Date: April 2020
  • BIC Category: HISTORY / Social History, Society & social sciences / Gender studies: women, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Modern History, History, Social & cultural history, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Women's Studies
  • Series: Gender in History


Over fifty years after Jamaican and Trinidadian independence, Imagining Caribbean womanhood examines the links between beauty and politics in the Anglophone Caribbean, providing a first cultural history of Caribbean beauty competitions, spanning from Kingston to London. It traces the origins and transformation of female beauty contests in the British Caribbean from 1929 to 1970, through the development of cultural nationalism, race-conscious politics and decolonisation. The beauty contest, a seemingly marginal phenomenon, is used to illuminate the persistence of racial supremacy, the advance of consumer culture and the negotiation of race and nation through the idealised performance of cultured, modern beauty. Modern Caribbean femininity was intended to be politically functional but also commercially viable and subtly eroticised.


'Imagining Caribbean Womanhood is a ground-breaking study that reveals the complex interweaving of beauty culture, gendered experience, and nationalism in a pivotal moment in Caribbean history.'
Jessica P. Clark, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of History, The Business of Beauty: Gender and the Body in Modern London

'Historians often publish their first books by obligation... Second books are often the books that historians want to write. To her credit, Rochelle Rowe's first monograph reads like it is her second...Rowe's writing demonstrates both clarity of mind and expression and is free of foggy jargon. Rowe's work, grounded in the cosmopolitan colonialism and multiculturalism of the Caribbean, will be of note and interest to social and cultural historians of the United States, Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, Great Britain, and the Atlantic world.'
Michael Edward Stanfield, American Historical Review

'It is also one of very few historical studies that focuses on colourism, a phenomenon which has its origins in slavery and has continued up to the present. Rowe's book then constitutes a major addition to the fields of Caribbean women's history and race history.'
Henrice Altink - Professor Modern History & author of Public Secrets: Race and Colour in Colonial and Independent Jamaica

'Imagining Caribbean Womanhood is an outstanding contribution to studies of creolization and hybridity for its rigorous attention to these concepts as value laden and embedded in performances of the body in West Indian popular culture and nationalisms. I highly recommend Imagining Caribbean Womanhood to popular and academic audiences interested in the politics of beauty and decolonization movements.'
Patricia van Leeuwaarde Moonsammy, Dickinson College


Introduction: Caribbean beauty competitions in context
1. The early 'Miss Jamaica' competition: cultural revolution and feminist voices, 1929-1950
2. Cleaning up carnival: race, culture and power in the Trinidad 'Carnival Queen' beauty competition, 1946-1959
3. Parading the 'crème de la crème': constructing the contest in Barbados, 1958-1966
4. Fashioning 'Ebony Cinderellas' and brown icons: Jamaican beauty competitions and the myth of racial democracy, 1955-1964
5. 'Colonisation in reverse': Claudia Jones, the West Indian Gazette and the 'Carnival Queen' contest in London, 1959-1964
Afterword: a Grenadian 'Miss World', 1970


Rochelle Rowe is Academic Development Lead in Organisational Development at University College London

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