The technological capacity to transform biology, relying on advances in genetic engineering, pharmacology, bioengineering, cybernetics, and nanotechnology, has spurred a variety of devices to manipulate bodily forms and human functions that are commonly defined "enhancement technologies". Under this definition are included cosmetic biotechnologies as different as aesthetic plastic surgery, skin bleaching treatments, smart and life-style drugs, hormonal therapies and biohacking implants - that aim to ameliorate human characteristics, including physical appearance and cognitive performance, regardless the diagnosis of a formal pathology.
Prompted by economic analyses on the increase in cosmetic consumption of biotechnologies in Portugal during the global financial crisis, and spurred by empirical and bioethical studies on the risks, the limits and foresights of body manipulation, this research project aims to critically analyse enhancement technologies within their shifting economic and socio-historical contexts. The project EXCEL tackles enhancement technologies as bio-investment practices to promote personal competitiveness according to a logic of excellence, reading bodily and cognitive alterations as processes of self-making. Focusing on the Greater Lisbon area and noting the national and transnational circuits that affect this context, we aim to add to existing statistical and bioethical analyses qualitative, ethnographic data to unfold the complexity of these practices, by examining the relationship between subjectivity, body management and citizenship. Drawing from Aihwa Ong, we will approach citizenship as a sociocultural process of subjectification - of self-making and being-made.
The aim is to bridge the micro-dynamics of specific forms of bio-investment - exploring practices of and aspirations for biomedical self-making - with the genesis of new markets and transnational circuits of cosmetic medical tourism.
COSMETIC MEDICAL TOURISM
COORDINATOR: CHIARA PUSSETTI
This task builds upon the PI exploratory fieldwork in relation to the transnational routes of cosmetic practices consumption and the trajectories of consumers, aesthetic products and procedures. This fieldwork has revealed the emergence of new touristic itineraries in Portugal that revolve around biomedical cosmetic treatments, where clinics’ advertisements articulate surgery, holidays and tourism, linking attractive touristic experiences to the prospective of bodily transformation and regeneration.
In the context of this emerging medical tourism, aesthetic clinics? marketing strategies that target upper and middle-class consumers configure Portugal as a country that offers the ultimate and most sophisticated (Brazilian) aesthetic-surgery techniques combined with the quality standards of European tradition. Drawing from these preliminary observations, and noting the lack of analysis regarding this emerging phenomenon, the aims of this task are twofold: a) it intends to reveal the conditions under which medical cosmetic tourism is rapidly spreading in Portugal, the ways in which the medical and touristic offer is articulated and promoted, and to identify the main consumers of this new transnational market; and b) it seeks to examine the symbolic capital aired by promotional and advertising images in terms of redefinition of the parameters of normality, pathology, perfection and imperfection, analysing the aesthetic categories mobilized by these advertisements.
COGNITIVE ENHANCEMENT AMONG UNIVERSITY STUDENTS AND YOUTH POPULATION
COORDINATOR: MIGUEL BARBOSA
In a highly competitive society marked by strong expectations for future success but also by the experience of insecurity associated to precariousness and unemployment, cognitive skills are highly valued by citizens who use various methods to improve them. Cognitive enhancement has been defined as the amplification of core capacities of the mind by improving the internal or external information processing systems. The resort to biomedical cognitive enhancements (BCE) especially involving children and people of young age, have raised bioethics concerns on their profound and long-term implications for societies. Bioethics have warned on the ethical, moral, cultural, social, legal, political, and economic issues related to the notions of authenticity and identity, distributive justice and equity, and the role of medicine and science in our lives. The primary aim of this task is to identify the cognitive enhancement methods used by university students and parents of primary school students. The second aim is to understandtheir motivations, expectations, and the perceptions of the risks and ethical limits of the use of BCE in academic contexts.
COORDINATOR: CHIARA PUSSETTI
Cosmetic uses of hormones comprise, among the others, pharmaceutical breast enlargement supplements, contraceptive pill to improve skin conditions or to induce amenorrhea, hormone replacement therapies and androgen replacement therapies to delay the onset of female and male aging, hormones to build muscular mass and reduce fats. Since their invention, the rationale for the use of sex hormones has been open to negotiation and subject to controversy and hormonal contraceptives are among the most widely prescribed drugs in pharmaceutical history. Exploring medical borderlands where health and enhancement practices are entangled, this task will consider the lifestyle and ‘cosmetic effects’ of hormonal therapies and products, according to social variables such as class, gender and age.