Alka Menon – Constructing an Asian Look

How do beauty ideals spread transnationally? This talk addresses the phenomenon of cultural globalization using the case of beauty ideals for cosmetic surgery in Malaysia. In it, I argue that Malaysian cosmetic surgeons balance and mediate between transnational beauty ideals and national tastes, producing embodied cosmetic surgery looks for individual patients. Malaysian cosmetic surgeons facilitate the spread of regional cultural forms from around Asia in selectively drawing on circulating beauty ideals in constructing different “looks” for their patients. This intermediary role has broader implications for how to think about the flow of ideas and concepts across national borders.