'Beauty Girls'
: Gendered Subjectivity, Agency and Symbolic Violence in Further Education

  • Amanda F Kidd

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis is about the cultures, pedagogies and practices of beauty therapy courses, about the young women who undertake those courses, and the complex matrix of social, cultural and dispositional factors which shape their subjectivities and trajectories.
Firstly, it investigates the factors influencing students’ decisions to enrol on their courses. Secondly, it investigates how the gendered and classed dispositions they bring to their courses are reinforced, modified or changed by their experiences as beauty therapy students. Lastly, it explores the ways in which these processes might be embedded in different forms of violence connected to beauty practices, interpersonal relationships and education, and to the forms of social and economic injustice that adhere in these.
The research was based on an ethnographic case study of NVQ beauty therapy courses in two English further education colleges. This thesis explores the methodological, epistemological, ethical and political issues involved in the
research process, from design and data collection to analysis and interpretation.
The study is situated in radical materialist feminism but also draws particularly on Bourdieu’s theory of practice to situate the subjectivities and trajectories of participants and their engagement with beauty practices in the dynamics of agency and structure. Bourdieu’s notion of symbolic violence, and its interrelationships with structural and direct forms of violence, provides a conceptual thread through this thesis linking the themes of vocational education and beauty practices.
In focusing on the under-researched area of beauty therapy training, the thesis contributes to our knowledge about the gendered and classed nature of vocational education. In situating young women’s engagement with beauty practices in the context of symbolic and other forms of violence, it also aims to contribute to our understanding of how these practices are implicated in violence against women.
Date of Award14 May 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorRosemary Deem (Supervisor) & Harriet K Bradley (Supervisor)

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