Beauty and the Beast

Paperback | July 30, 2012

byMichael Taussig

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Beauty and the Beast begins with the question: Is beauty destined to end in tragedy? Drawing on extensive fieldwork in Colombia, Michael Taussig scrutinizes the anxious, audacious, and sometimes destructive attempts people make to transform their bodies through cosmetic surgery and liposuction. He balances an examination of surgeries meant to enhance an individual’s beauty with an often overlooked counterpart, surgeries performed—often on high profile criminals—to disguise one’s identity. Situating this globally shared phenomenon within the economic, cultural, and political history of Colombia, Taussig links the country’s long civil war and its bodily mutilation and torture to the beauty industry at large, sketching Colombia as a country whose high aesthetic stakes make it a stage where some of the most important and problematic ideas about the body are played out.

Central to Taussig’s examination is George Bataille’s notion of depense, or “wasting.” While depense is often used as a critique, Taussig also looks at the exuberance such squandering creates and its position as a driving economic force. Depense, he argues, is precisely what these procedures are all about, and the beast on the other side of beauty should not be dismissed as simple recompense. At once theoretical and colloquial, public and intimate, Beauty and the Beast is a true-to-place ethnography—written in Taussig’s trademark voice—that tells a thickly layered but always accessible story about the lengths to which people will go to be physically remade.

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Beauty and the Beast begins with the question: Is beauty destined to end in tragedy? Drawing on extensive fieldwork in Colombia, Michael Taussig scrutinizes the anxious, audacious, and sometimes destructive attempts people make to transform their bodies through cosmetic surgery and liposuction. He balances an examination of surgeries m...

Michael Taussig is the Class of 1933 Professor of Anthropology at Columbia University. He is the author of many books, includingI Swear I Saw This, Walter Benjamin’s Grave, and My Cocaine Museum, all published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:192 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.9 inPublished:July 30, 2012Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226789861

ISBN - 13:9780226789866

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Author’s Note 

The Gift of the Gods
El Mexicano
A Rare and Delightful Bird in Flight
Winnypoo
Spending
Cool
The Designer Smile
The Designer Body
Mythological Warfare
Beauty and Mutilation
The Exploding Breast
Virtual U 
The History of Beauty
History of the Shoe
Surgeons of the Underworld
The Designer Name
Law in a Lawless Land
The Tabooed Cleft
The Fat Kid and the Devil

Works Consulted
Index

Editorial Reviews

“This is a highly readable text that in some instances seems itself to exemplify the principle of hybridity, combining a fair range of references to such writers as Benjamin, Lawrence, and Nietzsche, and to cultural movements, such as the baroque, with a studied casualness of tone and style: ‘You really pay your dues with la lipo.’ There is some inevitable repetition, as well as a hint of structural randomness—with comments on fashion, for example, flitting back and forth across the text but, in so doing, reflecting the point made about fashion’s ubiquity. It is certainly a text that mirrors the theatricality and evanescence of its subject. . . . Taussig’s style and tone may be ‘cool,’ but he communicates several sharp insights and startling connections, providing a perceptive and often original interpretation of the extraordinary pace of social change experienced in Colombia over the past 30 years.”