‘Beauty shouldn’t co$t your life’: Plastic surgery, modernity and a Mexican public health campaign

Samuel Taylor-Alexander

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1 Citation (Scopus)


This essay offers an analysis of plastic surgery in Mexico viewed through the lens of Latin American bodily ontology, national aspirations toward modernity and the public health campaign ‘Que la belleza no te cue$te la vida’, beauty shouldn’t co$t your life. Supplementing ethnographic observation with analysis of news media, academic publications and the workings of the public health campaign, I write about the dangers emerging alongside the making of human beauty as something obtainable by all. These are dangers to citizens, to the profession of plastic surgery and to the institution of the Mexican nation-state. In turn, bureaucrats and their surgical colleagues harvest these dangers and the horrors they produce in order to solidify their own legitimacy and the health of cosmetic consumers cum patients-in-waiting. The aesthetics of terror deployed as part of the health campaign seeks to produce a disciplined dismodern public while reifying the legitimacy of the Mexican nation-state and a deleterious medical field. While plastic surgery provides a potential avenue for citizenship and democracy, the Mexican citizen must act responsibly and becomes the site of control because bad medical consumption threatens the country’s move toward modernity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-93
Number of pages17
JournalCulture, Theory and Critique
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

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