Anti-Ageing and Women's Bodies: Spaces, Practices, and Knowledges of Cosmetic Intervention
Morton, Katherine Jane Parker
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis examines women’s responses to ageing through cosmetic intervention, as part of broader practices of health and wellbeing. The thesis identifies a lack of geographical attention to the embodied and emotional dimensions of the ageing process and the management and modification of bodies through anti-ageing body-work. In response to this the thesis contributes to existing feminist geographical approaches to embodied experience by addressing the multiple ways that women respond to, and negotiate, the pressures of gendered socio-cultural norms and expectations associated with the body. The embodied methodological approach I take focuses primarily on semi-structured in-depth interviews with practitioners and consumers of anti-ageing technologies and techniques, and participant observation in anti-ageing ‘treatment’ sites, including aesthetic clinics and beauty salons. Informed by corporeal feminism (Grosz, 1994) I use these approaches to engage with the fluidity and ‘fleshy materiality’ of bodies (Longhurst, 2001). In doing so I contribute to existing knowledges of gendered body-work and self-care practices, both empirically and theoretically. The thesis contributes significant new empirical data to the study of the ageing body, enabling reflexive discussion of theoretical approaches, as well as offering new perspectives on theoretical questions on the body and cosmetic intervention. Through analysis of the spaces, practices, and knowledges of anti-ageing body-work the thesis extends existing geographical approaches to emotion and embodiment, gender and identity, and health and wellbeing. I identify contradictions between the medical and therapeutic rationales of anti-ageing body-work, and the ways that such tensions are enacted through the spaces, practices and professional identities associated with ‘aesthetic health’ (Edmonds, 2010). I also develop analysis of anti-ageing body-work in terms of the ‘reframing’ and ‘realignment’ of corporeal temporalities, ‘anticipatory’ biopolitical frameworks of bodily futures, and the emotional context and consequences of the materialisation of time on the body. I also consider such practices in terms of regulation and control, highlighting the growing normalisation of cosmetic intervention as implicated in disciplinary frameworks of corporeal anxiety in relation to gendered framings of body image, risk and responsibility. Finally, I draw attention to a number of future directions in which this research could be developed.
PhD in Geography