Aesthetic labour outcome and experience of individuals with tribal marks in Nigeria

Toyin Ajibade Adisa, Dennis Nickson, Chidiebere Ogbonnaya, Chima Mordi

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Research on body art as a component of aesthetic labour has predominantly focused on individuals with tattoos in the global north, but little is known about tribal marks as a key element of aesthetic labour that leads to discriminatory or prejudicial attitudes in the workplace. Tribal marks are facial inscriptions that symbolize clan, family, and ethnic affiliation, and serve to distinguish one sociocultural group from another. In this article, we examine the lived experiences of people with tribal marks in Nigeria by developing a theoretical framework based on literatures on aesthetic labour, social stigmatisation, and discrimination. Drawing on the accounts of 42 individuals with tribal marks, we demonstrate how aestheticized work environments, biased assumptions, and negative perceptions about individuals with tribal marks can lead to discriminatory or prejudicial behaviours at work. We further discuss the psychosocial consequences and explain why tribal marks are now perceived to be outdated and damaging to those individuals who have them. We offer a novel perspective on the existing knowledge about aesthetic labour and broaden our understanding of another form of ‘lookism’ in a non-Western context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-453
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number3
Early online date6 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2024


  • aesthetic labour
  • tribal marks
  • discrimination
  • stigmatisation
  • lookism
  • social identity theory
  • social categorisation theory


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