Neoliberal nudity: gendered body practices in public/private times

Braun event

What does it mean to have and be in the body, in contemporary neoliberal contexts? A neoliberal body can be theorised as an ‘ideal’ – where the body is under individual control, managed and worked on to comply with a nexus of cultural values including ‘health’ and (particularly for women) ‘sexiness’. In this talk, I will speculatively explore the idea of “neoliberal nudity” through reference to two particular sites and modes of body modification: body hair removal/retention, and vulval genital cosmetic surgery and related procedures. In current (western) contexts, the lines between the private, not-to-be-displayed body and the public, freely-on-show body have shifted and continue to shift, both in material practices and within (social) media sites and discourses which give them meaning. I aim to interrogate the infiltration of neoliberalism into our psychological lives and material bodily practices, as choice/agency and normative compliance crash and merge in our increasingly post-worlds.

Virginia Braun is a Professor in the School of Psychology at The University of Auckland, New Zealand. A feminist and critical psychologist, her empirical research explores gender, bodies, sex/sexuality and health, and she has published extensively in these areas. Most recently, she has started to examine the construction of food and healthy eating on social media. Another strand of scholarship explores qualitative methodologies. She is co-author (with Victoria Clarke) of the award-winning textbook Successful Qualitative Research: A Practical Guide for Beginners (SAGE, 2013), and co-editor (with Victoria Clarke and Debra Gray) of Collecting Qualitative Data: A Practical Guide to Textual, Media and Virtual Techniques (Cambridge University Press). Notably, with Victoria Clarke, she developed an approach to thematic analysis which has become one of the most widely used qualitative methods in the social and health sciences. She is currently one of a group of researchers exploring the exciting method of qualitative story completion and is co-editing a forthcoming Special Issue of Qualitative Research in Psychology on the approach.

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