Article Text

Download PDFPDF
‘That is the skin of my brother’: alterity, hybridity and media representations of facial transplantation
  1. Marc Lafrance
  1. Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal, QC H3G 1M8, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Marc Lafrance, Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal, QC H3G 1M8, Canada; marc.lafrance{at}concordia.ca

Abstract

In this paper, I explore the 2012 face transplant performed on US recipient Richard Norris and how it was represented by the media as a ‘makeover story’. Informed by press coverage from the date of the transplant to the present day, I examine a widely viewed and critically acclaimed investigative report that aired on CBS’s 60 Minutes entitled ‘My Brother’s Keeper’. Through a close reading of both its form and content, I claim that the report’s makeover story consists of four key themes: heroic medicine and miraculous science; appearance-based stigma and social alienation; appearance-based conformity and social assimilation; and subjective alterity and embodied hybridity. In doing so, I contend that the report’s themes contain the widespread ambivalence about facial transplantation by confirming prevailing assumptions about medical science and how it creates normal people who live good lives. That said, I also contend that the report’s themes complicate these assumptions by highlighting how facial transplantation invariably involves immediate encounters with otherness and corporeal interconnectedness. I conclude that the report’s makeover story—characterised as it is by the constraints of the before-and-after format—must be rethought and, ultimately, reworked if we wish to do justice to face transplant recipients.

  • popular media
  • medical humanities
  • aesthetic/plastic and reconstructive/cosmetic surgery

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable as no data sets were generated and/or analysed for this study.

Statistics from Altmetric.com

Data availability statement

Data sharing is not applicable as no data sets were generated and/or analysed for this study.

View Full Text

Footnotes

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.