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.





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.




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.





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.



This task focuses on elderly citizens engaging with enhancement biotechnologies investigating discourses, practices and aspirations related to different forms of bio-investment and examining the impact that enhancement discourses and practices have on their lives. Taking into account that the increase in poverty registered in the Portuguese society in the last years affected mainly the children and the elderly, we hypothesize that the increasing consumption of these kind of enhancement products and procedures might be related to this socioeconomic context, as a possible individual response to an increasing social uncertainties. At a time when Active Ageing, defined as the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age, is being promoted by the European Union as a way to meet the challenges posed by demographic ageing, it is urgent to study the possible difficulties of some particular groups or individuals in embracing Active Ageing, as a consequence of the disabilities frequently associated with the ‘old-old’, many of them related to the social determinants of health, even considering the recent advances in biomedicine and the advent of Anti-Ageing medicine.





Congregating some of PI’s previous research and fieldwork trajectories (Portugal, Brazil, West Africa), this task aims to explore the historical conditions and the social, political and economic repercussions of the emergency in Portugal of a controversial transnational cosmetic ‘ethnic’ market designed to enhance personal appearance and transform physical features, identifying key social actors and characterizing hierarchies of individuals based on phenotypes. Using an interdisciplinary analytic framework to reflect on the concept of ‘ethnic’ or ‘racial’ surgery, this task intends to analyse the contemporary biologization of ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ in clinical practice and in cosmetic industry. Moreover, it aims to recognize the effects and contemporary manifestations of colonial legacy in interventions designed to eliminate 'ethnic' or ‘racial’ features - aesthetic whitening and bleaching treatments, chemical hair straighteners, surgical westernization of eastern eyes, of negroid nose and lips, etc. A specific focus of the task is to unfold the relationship between subjectivity, body management and citizenship, involving both national and immigrant population.




Body-hackers (or grinders) form an interesting transnational online sharing community that exchange know how on enhancement practices such as magnets implants (that are inserted under the fingertips or in the middle of the chest in order to improve sensitive abilities in the perception of magnetic fields) or microchip implants, that function as remote keys, wallets and data storage devices. Body modifications in biohacking are usually motivated by the intent to overcome human limits and empower body’s ability increasing sensitive potential. Though a marginal phenomenon in the economy of enhancement technologies, body-hacking practices often intermingle with bio-hacking advocacy for universal access to biotechnologies and biohackers identify with open-source movements, cyborg and transhumanism. The present task aims at analysing self-made (DIY) body modification practices that fall under the labels of body-hacking or bio-hacking. It will provide an exploration of body-hacking practices in Portugal while paying attention to the transnational influences of the practices.





According to Charismatic movements, excellence reveals the human desire of humanity to aspire to divinity. Perfect looks, athletic ability, intelligence, greater productivity, increased longevity and even moral perfectionism seem to be within reach in contemporary neoliberal societies. The idealized enhanced body, with the support of biomedical advance and technologies, defy age, sickness and death, epitomizing eternal youth and vitality. Pentecostal religions affirm that, although we were made in the perfect image of God, that image was lost in part due to Adam’s sin. People can survive in the harsh conditions of the natural world with technology, which is nothing more than the extension of humans in the divinity direction. Technological enhancement will lead adepts to a rebirth or born again experience, in order to recover that lost divine image. This task will investigate the integration of religious interpretations - particularly Pentecostal, Neo-Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches - with regards to body modification and enhancement practices. It will address how individuals and social groups (focusing on class, nationality, ethnic, age, gender, and citizenship as lines of differentiation) articulate the pursue of economic and social improvement with religious discourses and practices, such as miraculous transformation, divine healing, born again experience, physical and spiritual enhancement practices.