The Biological Subject of Aesthetic Medicine

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Abstract / Description of output

This article explores how race, sexual attractiveness and ‘female nature’ are biologised in plastic surgery. I situate this analysis in relation to recent debates over the limits of social constructionism and calls for more engagement with biology in feminist theory and science studies. I analyse not only how the biological is represented by biomedicine, but also how it is experienced by patients and, most problematically, how it is entangled with social constructions of beauty, race and female reproduction. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Brazil, I focus on plastic surgery, but also analyse how this specialty is linked to Ob-Gyn and endocrinology. I argue that medical procedures instantiate a biologised model of beauty I call ‘bare sex’ (Edmonds, 2010) that is defined in terms of racial traits, anatomy, reproductive processes, hormones and ‘secondary sexual traits’. While this is a historically specific model, it is also one that is inscribed on patients, altering anatomy and physiological processes. It thus has the potential to create a biological self-awareness that cannot fully be accounted for by a social constructionist analysis.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-82
JournalFeminist Theory
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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