Cleaning up Carnival
Race, culture and power in the Trinidad ‘Carnival Queen’ beauty competition, 1946–59
in Imagining Caribbean womanhood
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The 'Miss Trinidad' beauty competition doubled as the search for an annual 'Carnival Queen'. This chapter begins by drawing together the threads of a diffuse discussion of Carnival-refinement, a process which began in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. It identifies Carnival-refinement as the cultural work of contending white and brown nationalisms. The chapter delves into the culturally embattled origins of 'Carnival Queen' and complicates the assumption of a polarised confrontation between black and white. It argues that the context of bitter rivalry over Carnival between whites and browns restrained the development of the model of hybrid Caribbean beauty that Aimee Webster's 'Miss British Caribbean' competition had decreed as the way forward. Canboulay Carnival was too much dominated, in the minds of the reforming bourgeois, by the vivacity of subaltern culture, its subversive humour, violence and frequent crossings of middle-class gender norms that marked respectability and modernity.

Imagining Caribbean womanhood

Race, nation and beauty contests, 1929–70


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