Transnational Body Projects: Media Representations of Cosmetic Surgery Tourism in Argentina and the United States

Erynn Masi de Casanova, Barbara Sutton

Abstract


Cosmetic surgery tourism (CST) is part of the growing trend known as medical tourism. As people in the global North travel to less affluent countries to modify their bodies through cosmetic surgery, their transnational body projects are influenced by both economic "materialities" and traveling cultural "imaginaries." This article presents a content analysis of media representations of cosmetic surgery tourism in a major country sending patient-tourists (the United States) and a popular receiving country (Argentina). The power relations of globalization appear to be played out in the media. U.S. sources assert U.S. hegemony through a discourse emphasizing the risks of CST in the global South, in contrast with medical excellence in the U.S. Argentine sources portray Argentina as a country struggling to gain a foothold in the global economy, but staking a claim on modernity through cultural and professional resources. The analyzed articles also offer a glimpse of how patient-tourists fuel sectors of the global economy by placing their bodies at the forefront, seeking to merge medical procedures and touristic pleasures. There is a gender dimension to these portrayals, as women are especially likely to engage in CST. Their transnational body projects are tainted by negative media portrayals, which represent them as ignorant, uninformed, and driven mainly by the low price of surgery overseas. Our comparative approach sheds light on converging and diverging perspectives on both ends of the cosmetic surgery tourism chain, showing that patterns in CST portrayals differ according to the position of a country in the world-system.

Keywords


Cosmetic surgery tourism; media discourses; transnational consumption;commodification of the body; U.S.; Argentina

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jwsr.2013.509

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Copyright (c) 2015 Erynn Masi de Casanova, Barbara Sutton

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