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In the twenty-first century, appearance matters seemingly more than ever before. At the same time that “looking good” drives cosmetic surgery consumption, the threat of looking different inspires biomedical interventions too.
Saving Face explores a wide-range of surgical interventions—from reconstructive surgery on cleft lips to face transplantation, from facial feminization to makeover surgery television—used to treat so-called “disfigured” faces, Saving Face draws on in-depth interviews with a face transplant team and volunteers who conduct international surgery missions, fieldwork at surgical seminars and reconstructive surgery research team meetings, content analysis of reality surgery television, bioethics debates, philanthropic infomercials, news media, and promotional brochures, alongside personal reflections. It offers a rare glimpse at how stigma is intensified in the very spaces charged with eradicating facial differences.
Throughout, Talley demonstrates that facial appearance is increasingly attributed with life and death significance. Talley argues that as the significance of appearance shifts, the old boundaries between elective and reconstructive surgery are giving way. Especially at a time when aesthetic technologies carrying greater risk are emerging and when discrimination based on appearance is rampant, this important book challenges us to think critically about how we see the human face.