Whiteness and Postcolonial Luxury: Representations of the White Female Body in Contemporary Tourism Visual Texts

Karen Wilkes

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    The Caribbean was repeatedly used as a backdrop for European colonial narratives to convey ideas of the exotic and tropical nature in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This chapter discusses the continued appropriation of the Caribbean landscape to express romanticism, alongside the display of Western gender ideals; in particular the display of the white female body is convincingly represented as a modern-day princess bride, and carries associated symbols of entitlement to privilege, power and social status within the Caribbean’s tourism context. The chapter discusses the display of gender and beauty ideals used to promote white weddings as luxury in representations of the Caribbean as a consumer utopia. The empirical analysis of 6 Sandals images, taken from the 2012 destination weddings packages, discusses how the language of feminism has been used to represent idealised white women as liberated sexual agents, whilst continuing to be symbolically central in visual representations of normative heterosexuality. ‘Certain expressions of gender’ are idealised to produce ‘forms of hierarchy and exclusion’ in order to construct distinctions within market ‘systems of economic transaction’ and ‘symbolic exchange.’ The analysis draws on Judith Butler’s discussion of performativity to explore the cultural practices which, whilst centrally positioning the white female, reveal a demand for femininity to be confined within stringent and narrow prescriptions of beauty within a masculinist framework. Representations of performative gender ideals within mainstream media utilise the intersections of race, class and heterosexuality to privilege white femininity in displays which universalise notions of entitlement to privilege. Thus, the chapter discusses the ways in which femininity is always visually represented as racialised and classed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationUnsettling Whiteness
    Number of pages13
    ISBN (Electronic)9781848882829
    ISBN (Print)9789004374201
    Publication statusPublished (VoR) - 4 Jan 2019


    • class
    • gender
    • luxury
    • race
    • Representation
    • whiteness


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