Spot the Difference: SocSci lessons from Miss Universe

Fashion is an inseparable part of culture, and culture is that abstract glue — formed of practices, norms and expressions — which binds a society together. It is primarily through culture that we form identities based on race, religion and even nationality. And it is an interesting phenomenon that as our world globalizes (meaning borders are eroded because of trade, transborder issues and ICT), these traditional identities get reinforced too. Perhaps, we can see this most interestingly in that annual pageant, the Miss Universe competition.

Readers of my blog may see this mention of Miss Universe as off character. It really isn’t. First of all, I don’t watch it. Never did. Instead, this post is inspired by a friend pointing out the fact that if you look across the national costumes of the different Asian nations, ours really stands out. There is no question why. Our national identity is, by and large, a Spanish creation. No matter how many times we read the Noli and the El Fili, there is no escaping the fact that it was written in Spanish. It is their legacy and our curse.

Granted, all of the above costumes are unique. No Asian culture has a monopoly of that identity and most have had their fair share of colonial rule at worst, foreign imperialism at best. Nonetheless, the grasp of our colonial past on our identity is undeniable.

Some of our present day historians are on a mission to reclaim our history. They would like to rewrite it without Spanish sources and rely on indigenous texts and accounts to rewrite our history from the ground up. Our pre-colonial history is elusive and mysterious, but it is there. And until we find it, our national costume in future competitions will resemble less our Asian neighbors and look more like this:


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