Accepted Paper:

Surgical Reversion to "Fitra": Understanding Islam through Cosmetic Surgeries in Iran  

Author:

Marzieh Kaivanara (University of Bristol)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on the pursuit of beauty in Iran and its implications for the cultivation of Islamic collectivities.

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on the pursuit of beauty in Iran and its implications for the cultivation of Islamic collectivities.

In Islamic cosmology, beauty is seen as a reflection of God's utmost beauty and the face is an important locus through which the inner qualities and the person's piety and good deeds are communicated. Yet, any "unnecessary" intervention in the body is a matter of debate in many Islamic societies. In Iran, however, this practice is legitimised and widely practised; God is seen as the source of aesthetics, and any beauty in this world is seen as a reification of God's perfection. Quranic verses and Islamic hadith such as "God is beautiful and He loves beauty", are largely evoked to "prove" the view that the elevated urge for undergoing cosmetic surgery in Iran is a response to the beauty-loving constitution (fitra) of human beings.

In this paper, drawing upon my ethnographic study of cosmetic surgeries in Tehran, and through conducting interviews with several Islamic jurists, plastic surgeons and clients of cosmetic surgery, I interrogate how bodily beautification practices are used as a means to understand and maintain the Islamic collectivities. I argue that cosmetic surgeries provide space, through an embodied experience, for the religious self, and thus the ethical/religious society, to be cultivated. This is not only limited to the beauty-loving nature of humans, but also cosmetic surgery's compatibility with and contribution to social and religious roles (through marriage and procreation) and maintaining the "natural" order of the society.

Panel P007
Aesthetics and the making of religious collectivities