Surgery-for-Life: Aging, Sexual Fitness and Self-Management in Brazil
Professor of Social and Medical Anthropology
University of Edinburgh
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This article draws on ethnographic fieldwork on plastic surgery to explore tensions in aging norms and ideals for women in Brazil. I situate my analysis in relation to debates about a “de-chronologized life course.” Some scholars argue that the life course in late capitalism has become less standardized. In this account, chronological age diminishes in importance as consumers are defined by life style choices available to all ages and the period of youth extends into middle age and beyond. In Brazil consumers embrace plastic surgery as a means to “manage” aging, mental well-being, and reproductive and sexual health. This promise of a flexible and optimized aging trajectory seems to echo the notion of a de-chronologized life course. I argue, however, that medical discourse and patients’ accounts show ambivalence about aging and conflicts in the ideal of medically-managed sexual fitness for women. Drawing on analysis of changes in family structure and women’s health regimes, I argue that passage through the life course, rather than becoming more flexible, is in some ways becoming more rigidly defined by biological processes.
Keywords: Aging, plastic surgery, de-chronologized life course, sexual fitness, self-management
Edmonds, Alexander. 2014. Surgery-for-Life: Aging, Sexual Fitness and Self-Management in Brazil. Anthropology & Aging Quarterly 34 (4): 246-259.