Dissertation Abstracts

Immigrant Women in the Ethnic Beauty Salon Business

Author: Soulit Chacko, solchacko@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Loyola University Chicago, United States
Supervisor: Dr. Rhys Williams
Year of completion: In progress
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Immigration , Informal Economy , Transnationalism , Gender
Areas of Research: Migration , Women in Society , Work

Abstract

Ethnic beauty salons provide services including eyebrow threading and henna, practices originating from South Asia. In these salons, women and men get their eyebrows shaped and consume beauty services including waxing, haircutting, facial, and henna application to hands and feet. Through existing scholarship, we know that beauty salon are spaces where feminine and masculine identities are exemplified through beauty practices. Yet, we know little of the women who labor to create these spaces and identities. This dissertation fills the gap by focusing on the lives of first-generation immigrant women working in beauty salons. The study centers on South Asian immigrant women from Pakistan and India, who own, manage or work in ethnic beauty salons. The focus on gender analysis in this study will greatly inform our understanding of the broader social factors framing the expanding informal service sectors that thrive on immigrant low-wage women workers. The goal of the study is to understand first-generation ethnic, religious minority immigrant women’s experiences with self-employment in the low-wage beauty economy. I ask: How does gender, race, class, religion, and immigration shape immigrant women’s experiences in owning, managing, or working in small ethnic businesses? This qualitative study relies on 18 months of participant observation in three ethnic beauty salons and 60 in-depth interviews with: immigrant women working in beauty salons, customers visiting ethnic beauty salons, and South Asian community-based leaders.

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