The Smuggler and the Beauty Queen


This article explains the relatively neglected topic of how borders influence the habitus and body styles of border populations. It extends notions of habitus and performativity to the field of national identification. Using data from the British Crown Colony of Gibraltar, it examines two contexts in which the dominant body styles of men and women shaped as forms of resistance to political harassment enacted by the neighboring country, Spain, at the colonies border: smuggling and beauty contests.
Smuggling is both economically lucrative and part of the Gibraltarians’ struggle for political recognition and self-determination. The image of ‘the smuggler' and his or her behaviour have become emblematic of this conflict. Related to the question of sovereignty and the border is the exclusion of Gibraltar from participation in many international events such as the Olympics and the Eurovision Song Contest. The only such event in which Gibraltar participates on an equal footing with other nations is the Miss World Contest, the preparatory heats for which have become major occasions in the Gibraltarian calendar, spawning a mass of local beauty contests. These examples illustrate not only how borders create and maintain national differences and distinctions, but also how such differences can come to be inscribed on the bodies of those who live at borders.

How to Cite

Haller, D., (2000) “The Smuggler and the Beauty Queen”, Ethnologia Europaea 30(2), 57-72. doi:

Publisher Notes

  • This article was previously published by Museum Tusculanum Press.


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Dieter Haller (European University Viadrina)



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