From under the veil to under the knife: Women, global beauty and cosmetic surgery in Afghanistan

Date of Award

December 2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Media Studies


Carol M. Liebler


Afghanistan, Body image, Cosmetic surgery

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Through ethnographic methodology this research investigates the sudden rise in cosmetic surgery procedures in Afghanistan. Feminist standpoint epistemology frames this study as the experiences of 16 cosmetic surgery patients and their relationship with media are analyzed. The research here suggests that body-altering practices are not coincidental to the reintroduction of media in Afghanistan. The ban on radio and television in Afghanistan was lifted in the early 2000's and with this came an influx of foreign financial support to rebuild media in the country. The literature in this research discusses psychological and behavioral practices that support the notion that exposure to media messages of ideal bodies affects body image. Social comparison theory and self-ideal discrepancy theory are applied to better understand the process by which individuals evaluate their bodies. This thesis examines the possible motivations for undergoing cosmetic surgery to adhere to an ideal image of beauty, with particular attention to Western media and beauty ideals. Results indicate significant others and media pressures are strong factors that influence women to have cosmetic surgery. Findings are supported through observations and interviews with cosmetic surgery patients and doctors to address the relationship women in Afghanistan have with media and its influence on body image.


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