White Skin as a Social and Cultural Capital in Asia and Its Economic Markets

31 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2017

See all articles by Deborah Rodrigo-Caldeira

Deborah Rodrigo-Caldeira

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE), Students

Date Written: December 30, 2016


This paper analyses the beauty standards in Southeast Asia regarding the whiteness of people's skin and how it affects the local markets. This paper starts with is a brief introduction to the capital theories, social and cultural capitals as defined by Pierre Bourdieu. The history of the colonialism and nationalism in Southeast Asia is explored, referring to the European influence that the colonisers had over the colonised. The relationship between skin colour, social positioning and pale skin as a form of capital referring to Bourdieu's theories is also studied, concluding with a brief analysis of the whitening products within the skin care sector in the Asian beauty markets and its implications on the economy. An empirical analysis is made through an interview with a white-skinned expat in Thailand, whose testimonies confirm the main thesis of the study that a white skin in Asia has a significant influence on the success one may have in every aspect of the life as it works as an important asset to have in order to be more likely to have opportunities offered.

Keywords: skin-whitening, aesthetics, southeast Asia, Thailand, cultural capital, social capital, beauty standards

JEL Classification: A00, A10, A13, A14, F54, F60, J15, J24, J71, M31, M37, O11, O50, O53, P10, Y40, Z13

Suggested Citation

Rodrigo-Caldeira, Deborah, White Skin as a Social and Cultural Capital in Asia and Its Economic Markets (December 30, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2973408 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2973408

Deborah Rodrigo-Caldeira (Contact Author)

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE), Students ( email )

London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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