Face Transplants and the Ethics of the Other
University of Chicago Press 2017
New Books in Big IdeasNew Books in Critical TheoryNew Books in MedicineNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Science & TechnologyNew Books in Science, Technology, and SocietyNew Books in TechnologyNew Books Network May 18, 2017 Carla Nappi
Sharrona Pearl‘s new book is an absolute pleasure to read. Face/On: Face Transplants and the Ethics of the Other (The University of Chicago Press, 2017) looks closely at facial allotransplantations (FAT), commonly known as face transplants, in order to offer a careful and fascinating study of the stakes for changing the face, and the changing stakes for the face. Troubling the indexical relationship between the face and character and reminding us that “[t]he self has always been a set of choices,” Pearl explores face transplantation as it relates to cosmetic surgery and whole-organ transplants, the cinema of the 1960s, television shows, and more. She carefully and sensitively takes us into the debates among surgeons, bioethicists, and journalists that circled the first partial face transplant of Isabelle Dinoire in 2005, and offers a way toward a philosophical approach that brings together Levinas with the kind of (Deleuzian) subjectivity that allows for individuality through constant change and understands the self to be constantly in a process of becoming. The final chapter of the book also situates the analysis within larger contexts of online subjectivities and work with facial and bodily manipulation by artists and performers. It’s sparklingly written and well worth a read!