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Whirling among princesses: gender outlines and performances in an ethnography with children

Grant number: 09/11414-5
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Master
Effective date (Start): March 01, 2010
Effective date (End): February 29, 2012
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Anthropology - Urban Anthropology
Principal Investigator:Heloisa Buarque de Almeida
Grantee:Michele Escoura Bueno
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:08/55377-3 - Formation of the intellectual field and the culture industry in contemporary Brazil, AP.TEM


"Look, I can spin like the Princess" said the little girl, years before, when she spun around her own axis until her long skirt floated in the air. Cinderella was the reference used by her to build a "princess like" corporeity, and from that scene this research was born. For more than half a century Cinderella has been enchanting generations of children and, today, along with Snow White, Aurora, Bella, Ariel, Jasmin, Mulan and Tiana, they form the famous Disney's Princesses team. Inspiring worldwide-consumed products, the Princesses enter children's everyday life and become present as a referential for a femininity construction among children. Seeking to understand the way by which the Princesses are read and meaning among them, for a year I have lived with children from three different schools in the state of São Paulo. Using the comparative ethnography as method, I sought to capture the nuances between the different Disney character's narratives and the diverse possibility of interpretation by children of different social backgrounds. Starting by the division proposed by Disney between the "classic" princesses and the "rebel", we have chosen Cinderella and Mulan as representatives of two profiles of princesses and undertook an analysis in two levels: first, a textual one, and, later, one concerning its reception. The central role of marital success and romantic love in which the narratives are based on for the construction of a "princess type" has found its echo also on the interpretation carried out by the children. However, beyond the encounter with an enchanted prince, they pointed to another and more important aspect to the construction of a princess: the aesthetics. More than a prince by their side, the princess needed a pretty dress, a crown and lots of charm. Therefore, if we can say that the Princesses are an important source for a gender repertoire among children, it is precisely by the nexus between beauty and glamour that they stand as icons of femininity. However, the interaction of children with the famous characters of the media was not limited to the position while audience. From spectators to consumers, the children carried to the daily school a huge variety of objects stamped with the characters familiar from TV and cinema, made them instruments to demarcate their identifications and put the characters in action also in the playground. Among backpacks, stickers, Easter eggs, merry-go-round, seesaws and sandbox, the media characters were inserted into the day-to-day of classes and at the same time evidencing the boundaries between girls and boys, also provided openings for construction of outlines and resignifications between masculinity and femininity, showing, in this text, the extent of the genre which is learned also playing.

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Academic Publications
(References retrieved automatically from State of São Paulo Research Institutions)
BUENO, Michele Escoura. Spinning among Princesses: performances and gender outlines in ethnography with children. 2012. Master's Dissertation - Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH/SBD) São Paulo.

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