A/Prof. Jo Elfving-Hwang1
1The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia
Theoretical work concerned beauty cultures has for a while been concerned with how beauty and the body intersect with both discursive and material domains of what constitutes the everyday “real”, as well the perceived material benefits of the biopolitics of beauty. In particular in the context of South Korea, the logic of investing in self through various technologies of the body has become a prominent feature not only in media and marketing narratives that aim to market normalised invasive and non-invasive beauty treatments to broader audiences, but also in the self-help literature on workplace and the presentation of self. These narratives of beauty tend to highlight perceived benefits of investing in self even when the actual tangible benefits of engaging with treatments, such as cosmetic surgery, are harder to measure. This presentation focuses in particular on outlining the ethics of beauty work as presented in professional narratives surrounding technologies of self (such as cosmetic surgery), and how the surgeons and beauty professionals simultaneously position themselves in relation to their patients as knowing subjects of ‘beneficial’ forms of surgery while positioning the bodies of their patients as sublimated objects of gaze in the emerging, yet precarious, aesthetic economies in South Korea.
Jo Elfving-Hwang is an Associate Professor of Korean Studies at the University of Western Australia. Her research focuses on beauty cultures, cosmetic surgery and cultural sociology of the body in South Korea.