Vitiligo: Challenging Cultural Assumptions and Shaping Identity

Hamna Khuld


Vitiligo is a skin condition where pigmentation stops developing, leaving people with white spots on their bodies. Vitiligo is likely caused by gene mutation and is hereditary, but it can happen to anyone. From a medical standpoint, it is a physically harmless condition but it has vast socio-cultural impact. This study was conducted at the Annual World Vitiligo Conference in Detroit, Michigan and on the internet (Instagram and Facebook), through participant-observation at the event, textual analysis of blog posts, and interviews online and in-person, respectively. Through these methods, three discourses emerged: 1) Feeling outcast, 2) Vitiligo as beautiful, and 3) Solidarity. I documented the way cultural assumptions about conditions and disabilities shape the identity of those who have it. These interviews suggest that vitiligo is as much a cultural condition as it is a medical condition. Although more research is needed, people living with vitiligo stated that greater representation of individuals with the condition is needed in the media and pop culture to enlighten the public about vitiligo and improve the day to day interactions of individuals with the condition.


vitiligo; race; gender; normalization; animalization; stigma; United States

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The JUE is a peer-reviewed online journal that publishes original ethnographic research by undergraduates working in a variety of disciplines. Submissions are welcomed. Contact the Editor, Karen McGarry.

ISSN 2369-8721