The Absent Body Project: Cosmetic Surgery as a Response to Bodily Dys-appearance

Debra Lynne Gimlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)


Sociologists have conceptualized the body as a 'project' that is worked on and 1 transformed as a central part of self-identity (Shilling, 2003). In contrast, Leder's (1990) notion of the 'absent' body focuses on the body's tendency to remain in the 'corporeal background' unless specific physiological or social experiences cause it to 'dys-appear', or emerge problematically into direct consciousness. This article draws upon data from interviews with women who have had cosmetic surgery to show that these seemingly contradictory approaches to the body and self-identity are not reconcilable. Specifically, the data presented suggest that while cosmetic surgery provides a resource for bringing the body into line with an existing,sense of self, it is also used to alleviate the body's dys-appearances. Thus, this article describes how elements of both the 'absent body' and 'body project' perspectives elevant to cosmetic surgery patients' experiences of embodiment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-716
Number of pages17
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006


  • absent body
  • body modification
  • body project
  • cosmetic surgery
  • self-identity


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