Cosmetic Surgery Narratives

A Cross-Cultural Analysis of Women's Accounts


This book examines British and American women's narratives of cosmetic surgery collected between 1995 and 2007, with particular attention to what those narratives say about the contemporary status of cosmetic surgery and 'local' ideas about its legitimate and illegitimate uses. The book argues that British and American women employ justificatory strategies that normalize aesthetic procedures by aligning them with nationally-specific notions of 'appropriate' medical treatment. Consumers' narratives are also informed by 'global' discourses that portray cosmetic surgery as a lifestyle choice and a tool for holding one's own in the competitive marketplace of employment or heterosexual romance. Such meanings are in turn reworked by women in their own accounting, at the same time that accounts are limited by culturally-available symbolic resources and institutional structures. Where the general and specific are incompatible – as is more often the case in the British context – women respond by stressing the power of externally-imposed appearance mandates and their entitlement to self-care.
  • Palgrave Macmillan; October 2012
  • ISBN 9781137284785
  • Read online, or download in secure PDF format
  • Title: Cosmetic Surgery Narratives
  • Author: Debra Gimlin
  • Imprint: Palgrave Macmillan

In The Press

'This meticulously researched book explores cosmetic surgery not only within national contexts but also across specific and local medical cultures, comparing public and private healthcare systems and how these affect the ways that patients account for their cosmetic surgery desires and experiences. The histories of professional bodies representing cosmetic surgeons are particularly insightful. Not only beautifully written, Cosmetic Surgery Narratives is also notable for its richly textured empirical material. It will become a key text in the emerging interdisciplinary field of cosmetic surgery studies.' - Professor Ruth Holliday, University of Leeds, UK, co-author of Pleasure Zones: Bodies, Cities, Spaces and Kitsch! Cultural Politics and Taste

'This book is an essential text for anyone interested in sociology and the body. It addresses key areas about embodiment through narratives told by British and North American women about cosmetic surgery. Debra Gimlin enlightens us about far more than these groups, though: her fine scholarly eye guides the reader through crucial wider issues such as the body as project, medical consumerism, and the historic, cultural and economic factors that have created the distinctive US and UK healthcare systems. By being attentive to the remarkable voices of her interviewees and applying powerful analytical tools of repertoire theory Gimlin shows how the stories we tell about our bodies are not merely individual, they are also windows into national cultural values.' - Meredith Jones, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, and author of Skintight: An Anatomy of Cosmetic Surgery and co-editor (with Cressida Heyes) of Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer

About The Author

DEBRA GIMLIN is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Aberdeen, UK. She is the author of Body Work: Beauty and Self-Image in American Culture and co-editor (with David Inglis) of Globalization and Food.