1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 February 2002
Oh, look: another fantasticaly readable and informative book from Sander Gilman. Who'd have thought it? As usual, Gilamn casts his ironic eye over past cultural constructions of the human body, narrating this tale of aesthetic surgery with a quizzical wit and a deployment of his old analytical favourites (Freud and race theories)which he never allows to obscure his central line of argument: how do we 'pass' as humans? He suggests that it is culture that produces bodily norms and that (after Judith Butler, perhaps?) we are all in some way induced to act up to these prescriptions. In its most extreme form, this role-play becomes inscribed upon the flesh of our very bodies: cosmetic (or, as he has it, 'aesthetic') surgery. Get ready then for a grotesque cavalcade of syphillitic noses; designer vaginas; prosthetic penises; boob-jobs and liposuction. Gilman draws on a wide range of sources in popular culture and (thankfully) makes only basic reference to the institutional medical science behind the specialities -this is more about *why* we undergo aesthetic surgery and how society/culture views it than the actual procedures and medical advances themselves. Read in conjunction with Elizabeth Haiken's "Venus Envy" this book provides a fabulous overview of the culturalproduction of bodily norms.