Fieldwork in the Beauty Belt

Last Friday, I went to a CKS seminar. Titled Gangnam Style?: Plastic Surgery and Biopolitics in South Korea, it was a presentation of the speaker’s doctoral research (2012), which had been based on “the intensive ethnographic fieldwork at a plastic surgery clinic for 35 months, including her own experience of plastic surgery”. It was something far more complex than I imagined — especially the role that digital imaging technology plays in the process, and the enlightening responsibility that surgeons assign themselves. Brrrr.

The presentation also reminded me of a research project at the University of Leeds about aesthetic surgery tourism. Soon after I made a mental note to check the latest developments of the project, I spotted an old colleague from my PhD time in the audience, who happens to be a member of that project team. The whole thing was simply uncanny, and it was an enjoyable evening catching up with her and hearing stories of her fieldwork in Seoul.

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