CCHU9012 Humanities
Body, Beauty and Fashion

[This course is under the thematic cluster of ‘Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth’.]


Course Description

This course takes students on an exploration of the links between body, beauty and fashion from a variety of perspectives ranging from sociology, social policy, economics, psychology and medicine. These various perspectives together offer students a way of seeing how individual level issues (like self esteem, stigma and identity) shape and are shaped by community level issues (mass media), societal level issues (gender) and global level issues (globalization and westernization). The course examines these issues in a variety of formats using guest lectures, mass media analysis, video clips, problem solving activities and discussion. The course also focuses on cultural representations and understandings of the human body and ideals of beauty. Although the emphasis is primarily on contemporary Hong Kong society, lectures will also include in-depth analyses of how beauty is culturally constructed and historically situated around the world. To this end, the course is gender inclusive and presents both the female and male perspectives on beauty and body image. In this context, how human bodies and standards of beauty are increasingly influenced by a global media, which promotes a progressively narrow concept of beauty, will be critically discussed. Aside from the media influence on an increasingly globalized interpretation of beauty standards, the course also explores how diet and fashion industries are gaining momentum in shaping beauty ideals. Lectures address other globally and socially constructed aspects of beauty and identity, such as: race, class, culture, ethnicity, sexual identity, age, and ability/disability.

Course Learning Outcomes

On completing the course, students will be able to:

  1. Describe, explain and differentiate the sociological, psychological, anthropological and biological theories and ideas related to body, beauty and fashion.
  2. Extrapolate key elements of various theories regarding beauty, body image, fashion and gender and apply to their everyday experiences.
  3. Assess and critique messages regarding beauty, body image and fashion and place these messages in both a local and global context.
  4. Demonstrate comprehensive understanding of the complex relationship between gender and beauty and how culture and history impact this relationship.
  5. Critically assess social messages regarding body, beauty and fashion and discuss the social responsibility of accepting, not judging beauty as they explore alternative concepts of beauty that question conventional definitions.

Offer Semester and Day of Teaching

First semester (Wed)


Study Load

Activities Number of hours
Lectures 26
Tutorials 10
Fieldwork / Visits 10
Reading / Self-study 25
Assessment: Essay / Report writing 30
Assessment: Presentation (incl preparation) 30
Assessment: In-class quizzes (incl preparation) 12
Total: 143

Assessment: 100% coursework

Assessment Tasks Weighting
Reflective journal 40
Fieldwork assignment 20
In-class quizzes 20
Tutorial workshop participation 20

Required Reading

  • Chan, K., & Cheng, Y. (2012). Portrayal of females in magazine advertisements in Hong Kong. Journal of Asian Pacific Communication, 22(1), 78-96.
  • Choi, S., & Ting, K. F. (2009). A gender perspective on families in Hong Kong. In F. Cheung & E. Holroyd (Eds.), Mainstreaming gender in Hong Kong society (pp. 159-180). Hong Kong: Chinese University Press. 
  • Getz, M. (2014). The myth of Chinese Barbies: Eating disorders in China including Hong Kong. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 21(8), 746-754.
  • Goffman, E. (1959). “Introduction” from the presentation of self in everyday life. In C. Malacrida & J. Low (Eds.), Sociology of the body: A reader (pp. 53-56). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Joy, A., Sherry Jr, J. F., Venkatesh, A., Wang, J., & Chan, R. (2012). Fast fashion, sustainability, and the ethical appeal of luxury brands. Fashion Theory16(3), 273-295.
  • Li, L. (2015). If you are the one: Dating shows and feminist politics in contemporary China. International Journal of Cultural Studies18(5), 519-535.
  • Luo, W. (2012). Selling cosmetic surgery and beauty ideals: The female body in the websites of Chinese hospitals. Women’s studies in communication, 35, 68-95.
  • Muller, D. (2013). Breathless for Blue Jeans – Health Hazards in China’s Denim Factories. London: War on Want.
  • Song, G., & Lee, T. K. (2010). Consumption, class formation and sexuality: reading men’s lifestyle magazines in China. The China Journal, 64, 159-177.
  • Tam, S. M., et al. (2009). Re-gendering Hong Kong Man in social, physical and discursive space. In F. Cheung & E. Holrody (Eds.), Mainstreaming gender in Hong Kong society (pp. 335-368). HK: Chinese University Press.
  • Wen, H. (2009). “Being good-looking is capital”: Cosmetic surgery in China today. Asian Anthropology, 8(1), 89-107.

Recommended Reading

  • Chu, D. (2014). Kong girls and lang mo: Teen perceptions of emergent gender stereotypes in Hong Kong. Journal of Youth Studies17(1), 130-147.
  • Kulick, D., & Meneley, A. (2005). Fat: The anthropology of an obsession. NY: Penguin.
  • Lee, S. (1999). Fat, fatigue, and the feminine: The changing cultural experience of women in Hong Kong. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry23, 51-73.
  • Li, L. (2015). If you are the one: Dating shows and feminist politics in contemporary China. International Journal of Cultural Studies18(5), 519-535.
  • Louie, K. (2012). Popular culture and masculinity ideals in East Asia, with special reference to China. The Journal of Asian Studies71(04), 929-943.
  • Parment, A. (2013). Generation Y vs baby boomer: Shopping behavior, buyer involvement and implications for retailing. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services20, 189-199.
  • Pun, N. (2005). Made in China: Women factory workers in a global workplace. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Shen, H. (2008). The purchase of transnational intimacy: Women’s bodies, transnational privileges in Chinese economic zones. Asian Studies Review32, 57-75.
  • Tseng, W. S., et al. (1988). A sociocultural study of Koro epidemics in Guandong, China. American Journal of Psychiatry45, 1538-1543.

Recommended Websites


Course Co-ordinator and Teacher(s)

Course Co-ordinator Contact
Professor K.A. Laidler
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 2059
Email: kjoe@hku.hk
Teacher(s) Contact
Professor K.A. Laidler
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 2059
Email: kjoe@hku.hk
Dr C.K.M. Tong
Department of Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences
Tel: 3917 4641
Email: ckmtong@hku.hk