Beauty around the World
A Cultural Encyclopedia
by Erin Kenny and Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols
June 2017, 416pp, 7 x 10
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-61069-944-0
$113, £87, 99€, A155
eBook Available: 978-1-61069-945-7
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

The subject of human beauty is not inconsequential; rather, the opposite is true. Like it or not, beauty matters.

Taking the concept of beauty seriously, this encyclopedia examines how humanity has sought and continues to seek what is 'beautiful' in a variety of cultural contexts, giving readers an understanding of how to look at beauty both intellectually and critically.

Is beauty ever more than “skin deep”? Arguably yes, considering that the concept of beauty—and the pursuit of it—has shaped cultures worldwide, across every time period, and has even served to change the course of history. Studying beauty practices yields insight into social status, wealth, political ideology, religious doctrine, and gender expectations, including gender nonconformity. A truly interdisciplinary text, Beauty around the World: A Cultural Encyclopedia presents an insightful perspective on beauty that draws from philosophy, literature, sociology, anthropology, psychology, and feminist studies, giving readers a unique view of world beauty practices.

This volume offers information about beauty practices from the past to the present in alphabetical entries that address terms and topics such as “beards,” “dreadlocks,” “Geisha,” “moko tattoos,” and “progressive muscularity.” Readers will better comprehend how beauty shapes many social interactions in profound ways worldwide, and that the unspoken social agreements that shape ideals of attractiveness and desirability within any given culture can matter very much. The encyclopedia’s entries challenge readers to consider the questions “What is beauty?” and “Why does it matter?” A comprehensive bibliography is a valuable resource for further research.


  • Provides an interdisciplinary approach to world beauty practices, from the earliest experiments in plastic surgery in 600 B.C. to contemporary practices
  • Gives readers a representative overview of beauty practices around the globe
  • Documents how from cosmetics to clothing, exercise to body modification, being beautiful is a goal worldwide
  • Identifies numerous authoritative sources of information for further research and reading
Erin Kenny, PhD, is associate professor of anthropology at Drury University in Springfield, MO, where she directs the Women and Gender Studies program.

Elizabeth Gackstetter Nichols, PhD, is professor of Spanish at Drury University in Springfield, MO. She is author of Beauty, Virtue, Power, and Success in Venezuela 1850–2015 and coauthor of ABC-CLIO's Pop Culture in Latin America and the Caribbean and Venezuela in the Nations in Focus series.


"This is an excellent background source for undergraduates and general readers seeking a sociological examination of themes related to the definition and pursuit of beauty."—Library Journal, October 1, 2017

"Anthropologist Kenny and Spanish professor Nichols bring a welcome cross-cultural perspective to the topic of beauty—often treated overwhelmingly from a Western perspective. . . . Summing Up: Recommended. All readership levels." —Choice, January 1, 2018
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