- Through the looking glass: good looks and dignity in care
- Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy
- Volume | Issue number
- 16 | 4
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
Faculty of Medicine (AMC-UvA)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
There are roughly two meanings attached to the concept of dignity: humanitas and dignitas. Humanitas refers to ethical and juridical notions of equality, autonomy and freedom. Much less understood is the meaning of dignitas, which this paper develops as peoples’ engagement with aesthetic values and genres, and hence with differences between people. Departing from a critical reading of Georgio Agamben’s notion of ‘bare life’, I will analyze a case where aesthetics are quite literally at stake: women who lost their hair due to cancer treatment. The analysis shows a complicated interplay between varying evaluations of female baldness by the self and others, mediated by (often strongly negative) cultural imaginaries, and aesthetic genres depicting conventional ways of ‘looking good’. The paper concludes by arguing for a reconnection of the two notions of dignity, and for a rehabilitation of aesthetics in daily life and care as fundamental values for organizing our societies.
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