Face Work: Cultural, Technical, and Surgical Interventions for Facial "Disfigurement"
Talley, Heather Laine
This sociological and cultural analysis of facial disfigurement employs multi-sited ethnographic methods, participant-observation, content analysis, interviews, and autoethnography to examine four sites in which faces defined as disfigured are “repaired.” Characterizing work aimed at repairing the face as “face work,” I demonstrate that face work is a multifaceted, complex, and contradictory process wherein the face is technically repaired and what disfigurement means is negotiated. I examine an emerging and contested biomedical technology, face transplantation; facial feminization surgery aimed at and used by male-to-female transsexuals; reality television show Extreme Makeover; and international not-for-profit Operation Smile. I argue that face work is not simply a conglomeration of reconstructive techniques aimed at the human face but rather the work of making the disfigured human.