‘Embodied Identity and Cosmetic Alteration’ [Minutes]

Notes on the flow of discussion:

Cosmetic alteration as empowerment? (Negrin text) – match ‘outside’ with ‘inside’

 Non-sugical body alteration

White, Western dominant norm for ‘beauty’ and cosmetic alteration

 Middle class privilege in being able to afford surgery/body enhancement

Male/female spectatorship of the body – theories surrounding lesbian and gay identities

Cultural influences of the value of ‘weight’ regarding the understanding of ‘obesity’

Beauty not always equated with being healthy

Lack of body maintenance also a potential problem

Concept of ‘wellbeing’

Excessive exercise as a form of purging – addictive behaviours

Agency of the individual – informed choice (

In)visible bodies – trans, ‘disabled’ – the visible norm of the body in media and public consciousness

Norms of appearance – genetic manipulation

 *Ref TV/news: On Treacher Collins syndrome http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12987504

 Medicalisation of body alteration is new – body adornment and alteration has a long history (neck elongation, piercing/stretching of ear lobes)

Nature’s ‘peacocking’ – instinctual – attractiveness as a form of capital

Commercialisation of beauty

‘Facialiality’ – concentration of beauty on the face rather than the healthy body (Negrin text)

Body as performative tool/surface/site – Lady Gaga

Body as machine – athletes – cyborg bodies (featherweight boxers, actors)

Performance enhancing drugs in sport

How important is your body to your identity as an individual?

You right to alter you body?

Embodiment vs Subjectivity Relativity of ‘difference’ – different from – reinforces norms?

Dolezal text on desired invisibility: What about body alteration for people who want to be different?

Plurality of ‘norms’ – context-specific

Burqa – liberation/oppression – freedom from judgement on appearances?

Imagined ‘mirror’ of judgement by others

Invisibility of the body in the workplace – body as sexuality

Desire for invisibility during suffering – desire to hide

Menopause as invisible body alteration – freedom or mourning

Body alteration not always a choice

Value attributed to particular body parts


Roles Re-launch

Thank you to all those who attended the re-launch of ‘Roles’ Postgraduate gender and sexuality research network on Monday. It was great to meet you all again and to kick-off this network with a productive meeting.

For those who were unable to attend and as a re-cap of the action points that we agreed on, I have typed up some minutes of the meeting. (posted below)

Do get in touch with any comments, feedback or suggestions.

We look forward to seeing you again at our first event!


Minutes: Re-launching ‘Roles’ – postgraduate gender and sexuality network

14th February 2011

Start time: approx 18:30

End time: approx 19:10

Action since last meeting: –


Introductions and description of previous Roles activities

Postgraduates encouraged to suggest events that they would be interested in attending or that would be helpful to their research

  • Discussion/reading group – key concepts, debates and terms
  • Opportunities to gain feedback and support on research-in-progress, practice for presenting at conferences
  • Make contacts within the graduate researcher community

Members informed that an application has been made for Roberts funding to hold a gender and sexuality conference in May with hopes that this will become an annual event

Suggestion made for networking between universities

  • Inter-university network: Warwick and Birmingham City University mentioned in particular
  • Invite postgraduate researchers from other universities to present research-in-progress

Suggestion made to produce literature about Roles – this could be disseminated by DRs when they visit other institutions

DRs mentioned that it would be helpful to receive guidance from the network on key readings – Dr C Ross responded that there is a WebCT module for the MPhil (B) Gender Studies course that DRs can be enrolled on. If interested please contact Charlotte with your ID number and my.bham username.

Roles members could have discussions and make contacts via an online portal – setting up a blog was suggested (for example with wordpress or blogspot)

University gender and sexuality pages need to be updated and maintained.

Also, DRs were offered the possibility of setting up postgraduate profiles on the university website

Action to be taken: Please contact g.roles@hotmail.com if you are able to help with the action points listed below.

DRs to use any contacts they might have at other universities to gauge whether inter-university events might be possible.

Produce literature to advertise Roles to student body at Birmingham and elsewhere.

Put out a call for papers in anticipation of the conference in May.

If anyone would like to help in the conference organisation please email g.roles@hotmail.com and we can pass your details on.

Set up a blog for Roles (done!)

Update university gender and sexuality web pages with new Roles details.

If anyone would like to present their research-in-progress for feedback, email g.roles@hotmail.com with a short description of their topic and any particular reason for wanting to present (i.e. practising for a conference, particular concerns).

Further suggestions for events are welcome at any time. Email g.roles@hotmail.com