Mazzaschi, Andrew

Job Placement: Deputy Editor, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society
Committee: E. Cohen, J. Puar, J. Livingston, A. Aizura
Dissertation: Bodies of Value: Transnational Discourses and Practices of Plastic Surgery

Bio

Andrew Mazzaschi received a B.A. in Women’s Studies and Literary and Cultural Studies from the College of William and Mary in 2003. After completing his PhD in 2014, he continued in his role of Deputy Editor at Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society as the journal makes the transition from Rutgers to Northeastern University in Boston.

Abstract

Proceeding through case studies of actors involved in transnational instantiations of plastic surgery practice or discourse, this dissertation demonstrates that a transnational lens illuminates new dimensions of plastic surgery’s history and its contemporary manifestations. Examining plastic surgeons’ development efforts after WWII, the transnational charity Operation Smile, and cosmetic surgery tourism to Johannesburg, South Africa, the dissertation examine how surgeons’ and patients’ involvement in transnational work affects their understandings race, gender, and health. I argue that, in all three cases, the demarcation between reconstructive and cosmetic surgery is racialized: On the one hand, cosmetic patients understood as paradigmatically white and from the “developed world,” enacting forms of self-investment through medical markets. On the other hand, recipients of reconstructive surgery, associated with particular geographical areas and racialized as nonwhite, are understood as objects of external investment. I show that the concept of race operative in transnational surgical contexts is not, first and foremost, an anatomical one; rather surgeons produce a nonbiological but still embodied conception of race that is linked to cultural and economic difference. Finally, I show that plastic surgery’s expansive conception of health—incorporating bodily, psychic, and social dimensions—is precisely what allows it to engage in the forms of racialization I describe and what enables the specialty to incorporate itself into a variety of economic rationalities.