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Cosmetic surgery

Michelle Smirnova

Subject Gender Studies
Sociology of Sex, Gender, and Sexuality » Sociology of the Body

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


In the postmodern world, the body has transcended its former existence as a fixed, immutable object, into something that is pliable, something with the potential for the subject inside to manipulate as a means of self-expression. At the same time though, the body remains a site where truths are inscribed by various disciplinary institutions, labeled and categorized as normal or pathological, healthy or diseased ( Foucault 1977 ). As such, cosmetic surgery – the ability to alter this body – sits at the crux of this debate: perceived as a sort of freedom, yet “the freedom gained from cosmetic surgery is contained within a strict regime and demands a heavy price … [of] homogeneity and an abandonment of older, or other forms of being” ( Jones 2004 ). Whether or not the cosmetic surgery patient is a “cultural dupe” or an “empowered prosumer,” her/his actions are strongly motivated by a particular discourse which has labeled and defined some bodies as desirable and others as undesirable. Although initially developed according to a reconstructive logic that sought to return a “damaged” body to its original, natural form, the motivation driving cosmetic surgery procedures increasingly seems to be a desire to attain a hyperreal body aesthetic which defies the restrictions of genetics, race, sex, or age. Such a discourse is reified by cosmetic surgeons who argue that their practices “improved ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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