Cosmetic Surgery: a Feminist Primer – reviewed in the THE

There’s a nice review in this week’s THE for Cosmetic Surgery: a Feminist Primer, published in August by Ashgate and edited by Cressida J. Heyes and Meredith Jones.

Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer is worth its cover price for the collection of essays in Part One alone, a grouping of four papers under the heading “Revisiting Feminist Critique”. The rest of the collection is icing on the cake.

I don’t wish to downplay the value of the other papers, because they are diverse, thoughtful and critically engaging, but Part One gathers together four of the most important feminist scholars in the field: Susan Bordo, Kathy Davis, Kathryn Pauly Morgan and Vivian Sobchack. These women essentially carved out a research area within feminist studies of the body at a time when cosmetic surgery was more routinely fodder for supermarket tabloids. Their reflections on their own work, the development of the field of feminist research of cosmetic surgery, and the “extreme makeover” of the cosmetic surgery industry over the past two decades is poignant and timely.

About the book:

Practices of cosmetic surgery have grown exponentially in recent years in both over-developed and developing worlds. What comprises cosmetic surgery has also changed, with a plethora of new procedures and an extraordinary rise of non-surgical operations. As the practices of cosmetic surgery have multiplied and diversified, so have feminist approaches to understanding them. For the first time leading feminist scholars including Susan Bordo, Kathy Davis, Vivian Sobchack and Kathryn Pauly Morgan, have been brought together in this comprehensive volume to reveal the complexity of feminist engagements with the phenomenon that still remains vastly more popular among women. Offering a diversity of theoretical, methodological and political approaches Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer presents not only the latest, cutting-edge research in this field but a challenging and unique approach to the issue that will be of key interest to researchers across the social sciences and humanities.

Contents: Cosmetic surgery in the age of gender, Cressida J. Heyes and Meredith Jones; Part 1 Revisiting Feminist Critique: 20 years in the twilight zone, Susan Bardo; Revisiting feminist debates on cosmetic surgery: some reflections on suffering, agency, and embodied difference, Kathy Davis; Women and the knife: cosmetic surgery and the colonization of women”s bodies, Kathryn Pauly Morgan; Scary women: cinema, surgery, and special effects, Vivian Sobchack. Part 2 Representing Cosmetic Surgery: Agency made over? Cosmetic surgery and femininity in women”s magazines and makeover television, Suzanne Fraser; The ”natural look”: extreme makeovers and the limits of self-fashioning, Dennis Weiss and Rebecca Kukla; Selling the ”perfect” vulva, Virginia Braun. Part 3 Boundaries and Networks: ”Engineering the erotic”: aesthetic medicine and modernization in Brazil, Alexander Edmonds; Pygmalion”s many faces, Meredith Jones; All cosmetic surgery is ”ethnic”: Asian eyelids, feminist indignation, and the politics of whiteness, Cressida J. Heyes. Part 4 Ambivalent Voices: In your face, Cindy Patton and John Liesch; Crossing the cosmetic/reconstructive divide: the instructive situation of breast reduction surgery, Diane Naugler; Farewell my lovelies, Diana Sweeney; Index.

About the Editor: Cressida J. Heyes is Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Gender and Sexuality and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alberta, Canada. Meredith Jones is a Lecturer at the Institute for Interactive Media at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.

Previous review: ‘This is an important and timely collection of essays, presenting recent and complex investigations in Cosmetic Surgery Studies, whilst also revisiting landmark feminist interventions in a manner that gives key authors the opportunity to update their thinking in light of these more recent debates.’
Ruth Holliday, University of Leeds, UK

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