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Beauty surveillance: the digital self-monitoring cultures of neoliberalism

Elias, A. S. & Gill, R. (2017). Beauty surveillance: the digital self-monitoring cultures of neoliberalism. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 21(1), pp. 59-77. doi: 10.1177/1367549417705604


This paper argues that ‘beauty apps’ are transforming the arena of appearance politics and foregrounds a theoretical architecture for critically understanding them. Informed by a feminist-Foucaultian framework, it argues that beauty apps offer a technology of gender which brings together digital self-monitoring and postfeminist modalities of subjecthood to produce an hitherto unprecedented regulatory gaze upon women that is marked by the intensification, extensification and psychologization of surveillance.

The paper is divided into four sections. First it introduces the literature on digital self-tracking. Secondly it sets out our understanding of neoliberalism and postfeminism. Thirdly it looks at beauty and surveillance, before offering, in the final section, a typology of appearance apps. This is followed by a discussion of the modes of address/authority deployed in these apps – especially what we call ‘surveillant sisterhood’ - and the kinds of entrepreneurial subjectivity they constitute. The paper seeks to make a contribution to feminist surveillance studies and argues that much more detailed research is needed to critically examine beauty apps.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Elias, A. S., & Gill, R. (2018). Beauty surveillance: The digital self-monitoring cultures of neoliberalism. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 21(1), 59–77. Copyright © 2017. the authors. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.
Publisher Keywords: Foucault, digital self-tracking, postfeminism, neoliberalism, subjectivity, gender, beauty, surveillance, labour, new media
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Culture & the Creative Industries
SWORD Depositor:
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