2010 Pretty Modern: Beauty, Sex and Plastic Surgery in Brazil
Durham: Duke University Press, 2010
Pretty Modern is a riveting account of Brazil's emergence as a global leader in plastic surgery. Intrigued by a Carnival parade that mysteriously paid homage to a Rio de Janeiro plastic surgeon, anthropologist AlexanderEdmonds conducted research that took him from Ipanema socialite circles to glitzy telenovela studios to the packed waiting rooms of public hospitals offering free cosmetic surgery. The result is provocative exploration of the erotic, commercial, and intimate aspects of beauty in a nation with extremes of wealth and poverty and a reputation for natural sensuality. Drawing on conversations with maids and their elite mistresses, divorced housewives, black celebrities, and favela residents aspiring to be fashion models, he analyzes what sexual desirability means and does for women in different
social positions. Edmonds argues that beauty is a distinct realm of modern experience that does not simply reflect other inequalities. It mimics the ambiguous emancipatory potential of capital, challenging traditional hierarchies while luring consumers into a sexual culture that reduces the body to the brute biological criteria of attractiveness. Illustrated with color photographs, Pretty Modern offers a fresh theoretical perspective on
the significance of female beauty in consumer capitalism."
"A masterpiece. Pretty Modern is one of the most nuanced and beautifully crafted ethnographies out there." (João Biehl* author of Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival)
"A fresh, smart, insightful, entertaining, and compelling book about a topic--cosmetic surgery--that many of us thought had self-combusted in the 1990s amid irresolvable debates about whether women who wanted bigger breasts were subjects with agency or duped victims of the 'beauty myth.' *Pretty Modern* rises from the ashes of those debates to provide us with exciting new ways of thinking about what plastic surgery is, what it means, and what it does. It is first-rate anthropology and a wonderfully perceptive study of Brazil." (Don Kulick, author of Travesti: Sex, Gender, and Culture among Brazilian Transgendered Prostitutes)