Article ID: CBB072343308

The Anxious Production of Beauty: Unruly Bodies, Surgical Anxiety and Invisible Care (2016)


This study is based on ethnographic fieldwork at a plastic surgery clinic in Seoul, South Korea. Examining the three phases of plastic – consultation, operation and recovery – I show how surgeons work to shape not only patients’ bodies but also expectations and satisfaction. Surgeons do so in part to assuage their own anxieties, which arise from the possibility of misaligned beauty standards and unforeseen anatomies, as well as the possible dissatisfaction of the patient. I offer the concept of ‘surgical anxiety’, which occurs in relation to inherently unruly patient bodies in which worries, fear, frustration, self-pity, cynicism, anger and even loneliness are symptomatic. The unpredictability and uncontrollability of patients’ bodies, which generates anxiety for both patients and surgeons, work to constrain the power of plastic surgery and making it inherently vulnerable. This study also pays attention to the invisible work of taking care of surgical anxiety, as practised by female staff members, and surgeons’ dependence on these workers. My focus on anxiety is a kind of remedy for the predominant concern with ‘ambivalence’ in constructivist science and technology studies; rather than continue to highlight the power differentials between experts/practitioners and lay people/patients, this study illuminates surgical anxiety as their shared vulnerability. Thus, this study proposes a new politics of care in technoscience and medicine, which begins with anxiety.

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Authors & Contributors
Clarke, Adele E.
Fosket, Jennifer Ruth
Mamo, Laura
Tobbell, Dominique
Scandura, Jani
Braun, Bruce
East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal
Acta Historiae Rerum Naturalium necnon Technicarum
Science Technology and Society
Science as Culture
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
Environmental History
University of Minnesota
Duke University Press
Stanford University Press
MIT Press
Manchester University Press
Plastic surgery
Stem cells
Human body
Medicine and technology, relationships
Biomedical technology
Hwang Woo-suk
Mailer, Norman
Garfield, James Abram
Mann, Thomas
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, late
20th century
19th century
18th century
South Korea
South Africa
International Bioethics Committee (UNESCO)
Industrial Technology Research Institute- ITRI
Korea Institute of Science and Technology - KIST

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