Honors Senior Theses/Projects

Date of Award

Spring 2021

Exit Requirement

Undergraduate Honors Thesis/Project

Department

Honors Program

Faculty Advisor

Dr. Dana Schowalter

Honors Program Director

Dr. Gavin Keulks

Abstract

The Miss America Program has been an American dream since its initiation in 1921. What began as a Beauty Pageant hosted in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall quickly formed into the scholarship organization it is now. From burning bikinis to obtaining a bachelors, Miss America has been the target of criticism and hate. Through this thesis I will use the methods and practices of autoethnography to create a specific analysis of how we view Miss America in relation to feminist theory. When a scholar writes in the form of autoethnography… “they retrospectively and selectively write about epiphanies that stem from, or are made possible by, being part of a culture and/or by possessing a particular cultural identity. However, in addition to telling about experiences, auto ethnographers often are required by social science publishing conventions to analyze these experiences” (Ellis, 2011, sec. 2, par. 4). This thesis incorporates the four vital steps of autoethnography to combine my experience with the Miss America organization and academic critique relevant to the themes I identify. These four steps include: (1) purposefully critiquing cultural practices, (2) making a contribution to existing work, (3) embracing vulnerability with the intention of enticing critique, and (4) creating a reciprocal relationship with the audience to evoke response. By using autoethnographic analysis I will discern patterns of cultural experience evident by artifacts and then describe these patterns using facets of storytelling (Ellis, 2011), and I will give voice to my personal experience for the purpose of pursuing sociological understanding (Wall, 2008).

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