As the capital of Belgium and Europe, Brussels (FR: Bruxelles/NL: Brussel) plays a vital role in shaping global and European beauty trends.'

Brussels currently ranks as one of the most superdiverse cities in the world, its population made up from people of many different races and ethnicities, sporting a great diversity of languages, residential statuses, political affiliations and age groups. This heterogeneity suggests that many different beauty standards will exist. Variations in beauty standards, as Kuipers (2022) points out, do not reduce the effect of the beauty regime, but rather serve to strengthen it. To legitimise the existence of diverse beauty standards, cultural narratives emerge to reinforce them among different social groups. This leads to conflicts over the definition of social reality and the preservation of dominant positions.

For this project, Sanne Pieters will examine four cases that explore the existence of local beauty standards in Brussels by focusing on the concepts of beautifying bodywork and habitus. Bodywork encompasses four closely related interpretations: the work we do on our own body, for instance by going to the gym or getting lip filler, paid labour involving others’ bodies, including hairdressers, personal trainers and dietitians, the regulation of emotional expression in a labour context and body creation or alteration through work (Gimlin, 2007). Using four case studies, Sanne will investigate how bodywork can serve as a way of learning and perpetuating beauty standards.

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