Tuesday 25th February

Silverstone, Room SB325, 1pm-2pm

Speaker:
Cinzia Greco (cole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and the CERMES3 laboratory)
Alida Payson (Cardiff University)

Chair:
Dr Ana Porroche Escudero (Anthropology, University of Sussex)

Abstract:
Cinzia Greco – Gender construction and resistance: The post-mastectomy body

The aim of this presentation is to analyze how the refusal to undergo a post-mastectomy reconstruction can be seen as a way to challenge gender norms and the processes of construction of gendered bodies, without ignoring the limitations of this challenge.

To this end, I will use the data of an ongoing, multi-situated research on the surgical treatments in the case of breast cancer (tumorectomy, mastectomy and reconstruction), with fieldwork in France and Italy. Until now, I have conducted 98 in-depth interviews with patients and health professionals, and observed several meetings of different associations

The post-mastectomy reconstruction is presented as a personal choice, however, some patients affirm that some surgeons pushed them toward a reconstruction; moreover, the operation is often an occasion to modify the breasts, enlarging, reducing or lifting them up, to conform them to the idea of how female breasts have to be.
Still, some patients refuse to undergo a surgical breast reconstruction. Moreover, two patients’ associations that I met during my fieldwork refused to consider a one-breasted silhouette as mutilated, or falling outside the norms.
These experiences of illness and resistance, both collective and individual, are an example of re-appropriation of the post-mastectomy body. Furthermore, they put into question the norms of gender and the beauty canons that, implicitly, reinforce the artificial binarity of gender. However, the confrontation with the institutional context can diminish the strength of these processes, reintroducing new modalities of normalization, and new ways to re-affirm the binarity of gender. One of these ways can be the affirmation that a woman can be “feminine” even without a/the breast. In this case the normalization is obtained by the internalization of the norms of femininity that can find expression beyond body appearance.

Alida Payson – Crafting culture, making belonging: everyday practices of creativity among women migrants in Cardiff

In Cardiff, in November 2013, a group of girls and young women with roots and family in the UK and Jordan, Somalia, Yemen, Egypt, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sudan, among others, organised a women-only community event for 400 guests under the chandeliers at Cardiff’s City Hall that included a craft fair, a festive meal, dances and songs, a talent competition and four fashion shows by independent local designers and youth artists. The same month in Cardiff witnessed skill-sharing and crafting workshops at a refugee drop-in centre, a craft-based community fundraiser for Syrian refugees and events in a neighbourhood arts festival. In this paper, I look at how these varied events manifest some of the creative practices – from entrepreneurial projects to celebratory cultural expressions to everyday home work – in which migrant and minority ethnic women living in Cardiff engage, and what some of the political effects of these practices might be.

In the context of displaced or migrant communities, Irene Gedalof writes that “ ‘home’ is produced through a constant process of adjustment, transformation, negotiation, redefinition – a never-ending, ongoing work to reproduce the appearance of stability and fixity that is part of the imagined community” (Gedalof, 2003, p. 101). Drawing on Ben Highmore’s work on migration and the
aesthetics of the everyday, Susan Fraiman’s studies of queer domesticity, and Irene Gedalof’s writing on displaced women as creative citizens re-crafting culture and belonging, I investigate how the creative practices evidenced in the Cardiff events make and problematize varied senses of belonging and ‘home’.

While not commonly recognised as political acts, I argue in this paper that these acts of stitching, organising, painting, styling, selling, cooking, arranging, engineering and media-making form a vital aspect of mobilisation and community making

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