STEVEN POLGAR PRIZE ESSAY (1991) EUGENIA KAW Department of Anthropology University of California, Berkeley Medicalization of Racial Features: Asian American Women and Cosmetic Surgery This article presents findings of ethnographic research in the San Fran- cisco Bay Area, exploring the recent phenomenon of Asian American women undergoing cosmetic surgery to have their eyelids restructured, their nose bridges heightened, and the tips of their noses altered. This research suggests that Asian American women who undergo these types of surgery have internalized not only a gender ideology that validates their monetary and time investment in the alteration of their bodies, but also a racial ideology that associates their naturalfeatures with dullness, passivity, and lack of emotion. With the authority of scientific rationality, medicine effectively promotes these racial and gender stereotypes and thereby bolsters the consumer-oriented society, of which it is a part and from which it benefits.
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