ABSTRACT

Body modification, self- or other-administered, invasive or non-invasive, lasting or temporary, has a long history and is conducted in many cultures and contexts. But in the past five decades in particular, body modification and surgical interventions have become both much debated in a range of media, and a significant area of concern in many academic disciplines (e.g. Sociology, Women’s/Gender Studies, Anthropology, Queer and Trans Studies, Law, Medicine, Politics, Philosophy, etc.). This has been fuelled by four main co-evolving changes. The first of these is the rise of neoliberalism with its insistence on individual choice, agency and responsibility for self. This has entailed rethinking the self as a project for which individuals are expected to take responsibility in fashioning that self, bodily, socioculturally, affectively. In some contexts (see, for example, Holliday in this volume), this rethinking of the self has also been seen as practicing care of the self.