Program

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships , Mellon/ACLS Recent Doctoral Recipients Fellowships

Project

Cosmetic Citizenship: Beauty, Surgery and Inequality in Southeastern Brazil

Project

Cosmetic Citizenship: Beauty, Affect, and Social Inequality in Southeastern Brazil

Cosmetic Citizenship: Beauty, Surgery and Inequality in Southeastern Brazil

This dissertation examines the construction of beauty in Brazil as a product of the country’s complex inequalities. Beauty is a body marker believed to have the power to encapsulate racial and class differences and to make social mobility possible for those who improve their appearance, particularly women. The medicalization of bodily imperfections has led to a boom in plastic surgery, whereby even public hospitals offer aesthetic surgery to low-income patients, subsidized by the state. Plastic surgeons depend on these patients to develop new techniques, but the risks involved are downplayed. This project examines how this national investment in beauty reflects a fractured Brazilian body politic and establishes personal appearance as a precondition for citizenship and inclusion in the nation.

Cosmetic Citizenship: Beauty, Affect, and Social Inequality in Southeastern Brazil

This project examines how perceptions of beauty in Brazil reflect both the existing social inequalities and the struggles to produce a more egalitarian society. While hegemonic discourses about beauty in Brazil foster an upper-middle class, white standard, the working-class make claims to citizenship by redefining beauty according to their own affective, embodied experiences. In order to access this form of “cosmetic citizenship,” however, working-class patients undergo low-cost aesthetic surgeries in public hospitals, which are subsidized by the state and help build the national reputation of plastic surgeons. This study argues that this national investment in beauty establishes personal appearance as a precondition for citizenship and inclusion in the nation.