Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
In traditional Marxian theory of alienation, the means of production are separated from the worker’s labor such that the laborer is understood as distinct from the product they create and the commodity is seen as separate from the consumer. These links between production and consumption become blurred in the global South Asian beauty industry that markets and sells services resulting in transformations of the body vis-à-vis henna art and threading hair removal. Drawing on 22 months of fieldwork in the ethnic beauty market in Los Angeles, Khan traces the value of transnational aesthetic practices as global commodities through their a/depreciation once they are inscribed onto migrant women’s bodies and, consequently, their labor (Boris and Parreñas 2010). She also discusses the commodity discourses attached to traveling aesthetic practices that delineate them as “authentic” and appropriately Other in an increasingly global market. Borrowing from Jean Comaroff and John Comaroff’s use of “ethnocommodity,” Khan similarly explores processes of “world making” wherein consumption cannot solely be explained in market terms of loss and abstraction but, rather, involves a reconfiguration of identities in the age of mass consumption (2009). By embedding global commodity discourses within micro-interactions that take place in ethnic beauty salons, Khan examines how these processes yield insights into the subjectivity-formations of workers, clients, and business owners.
Boris, Eileen and Rhacel Salazar Parreñas, ed. 2010. Intimate Labors: Cultures, Technologies, and the Politics of Care. Stanford, CA:
Stanford University Press.
Comaroff, Jean and John Comaroff. 2009. Ethnicity, Inc. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.