Disfigurement, the Body and Dress: A Review of the Literature

Catherine Wilkinson, Bernie Carter, Kayvan Shokrollahi

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    This article reviews literature on disfigurement, the body and dress in order to better understand the relationship between dress - including mainstream clothing (‘fashion’), clinical clothing (such as pressure garments, prescribed glasses and prescribed footwear), and accessories - and its social and symbolic status for individuals living with a visible difference. We assess the state of the field through an interdisciplinary lens, collating literature from disciplines including but not limited to Geography, Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, and Health. We review literature pertaining to living with a disfigurement and managing stigma, with an emphasis on dress and the disfigured body. In bringing this scholarship together we speak to the geographies of the body (see Longhurst, 1995; Hubbard, 2002) and literature on the body and dress (Hansen, 2007; Harvey, 2007), considering the dressed body as both subject in, and object of, dress practice (see Hansen, 2004). We suggest that a new substantive focus on disfigurement could help to broaden and invigorate existing fields of inquiry at the intersection of social, health and cultural geographies. In concluding, we highlight thematic directions for future study, including exploring the spaces and places in which decisions relating to disfigurement and dress are made, and the complex processes of negotiating marginalisation by those with a disfigurement.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalGeography Compass
    Early online date19 Jul 2018
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jul 2018


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