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Girlhood, Beauty Pageants, and Power

Trailer Park Royalty


Elisabeth B. Thompson-Hardy

Girlhood, Beauty Pageants, and Power: Trailer Park Royalty explores the phenomenon of child beauty pageants in rural communities throughout the American South. In a bricolage of post-structural feminism, critical ethnographies, critical hermeneutics, and cultural studies lenses, this book analyzes how the performance of participants—most from a lower socio-economic bracket—and the power exercised by beauty pageant culture work to formulate girls’ identities. Girlhood, Beauty Pageants, and Power also examines how depictions in popular culture through film, videos, documentaries, and television shows add to the dialogue. Author Elisabeth B. Thompson-Hardy suggests rural pageant culture works to create girlhood identity and shapes the way participants view the world and themselves—through intricate cultural work in terms of gender and class. This book is intended for students and teachers who are interested in dissecting rural girlhood and development, Southern American beauty standards, and the effect of the media on girls’ identities.

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Chapter Three: Bricolage: Cultural Studies, Poststructural Feminism, and Poststructuralist Ethnography


Chapter Three

Bricolage: Cultural Studies, Poststructural Feminism, and Poststructuralist Ethnography

The Road to Critical Ethnography

Ethnography is regarded as holistic in its approach as its aim is to understand individuals and their behavior in the context of culture (Fetterman, 2000). According to Chambers (2000), ethnography as the varieties of inquiry that work to describe culture and human affairs delineating that ethnography is defined by the subject matter and not by methodology. Not a stagnant methodology, ethnography requires an ongoing process of placing individuals and events in meaningful contexts. Each of the ethnographic traditions shares a common goal of gathering first-hand experiences and exploring specific cultures (Atkinson, Coffey, Delamont, Lotland, and Lotland, 2001).

Brewer (2000) defines ethnography as

The study of people in naturally occurring settings or fields by methods of data collection which capture their social meanings and ordinary activities, involving the researchers participating directly in the setting, if not also the activities, in order to collect data in a systematic manner but without meaning imposed on them externally (p. 6).←75 | 76→

In this way, researchers learn about others by learning from them. Ethnography becomes understood through a combination of actions—fieldwork, design, and methods of inquiry that create personal, historical, and political accounts of people’s lives. Ethnographic research works to recognize the characteristics of groups of people by spending much time in observation and using diverse methods of data collection to unearth all facets of a...

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