'Doing breast work' : Feminism(s), Foucault and the case of cosmetic surgery
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis is concerned with the diverse ways in which plastic surgeons, surgical corsetieres and their clients 'do breast work'. Conversations with women clients and cosmetic surgeons suggest that cosmetic surgery is not only about sculpting and changing body shapes; it is also about recrafting identities. The thesis uses conversations about embodied experience to problematise dominant assumptions about both femininity and cosmetic surgery. I suggest that feminist attention to the hegemonic understandings of femininity often neglect dimensions of cultural production that lie outside the field of textuality and homogenise the experiences of women clients. I recognise the attention to contradiction and examples of ambiguity and resistance used in this thesis are not necessarily representative of the way cosmetic surgery is used by the majority of women. Rather than generalising from these examples, I use specific cases to problematise theoretical and cultural generalisations about feminine embodiment and its relation to the discourses and practices of cosmetic surgery. Cosmetic surgery is constructed as a social field and a cultural practice available for sociological analysis. The thesis focuses on cosmetic surgery as simultaneously containing elements of oppression, exploitation, transformation and possibility. Through an examination of the contradictions, ambiguities, silences and resistances surrounding the discursive practices of cosmetic surgery, the thesis seeks to provide a practical example of an embodied feminist/postmodemist sociology of the body.