What do they have in common?
This and other questions will be disscussed by Sander L. Gilman, the Henry R. Luce professor of the liberal arts in human biology and chair of the Germanic studies department at the University of Chicago. He’ll be speaking in Chicago on February 1st and the topic of his lecture will be “Extreme Makeover: Jews and the Invention of Cosmetic Surgery.”
Sander Gilman considers philosophical and historical questions rarely broached by cosmetic surgeons or their patients. He looks at how new notions of race, beauty, and happiness arose in the 18th and 19th centuries, and how these turned “the Jewish nose” into an obsession for Jews and non-Jews alike. How are ideals of beauty informed by notions of race and ethnicity? How does external appearance relate to emotional well-being? And how has plastic surgery affected debates about Jewish identity?
The Jewish nose an obsession for non-Jews? Consider Alfred Dreyfus, he of the notorious Dreyfus affair that inspired a certain Austrian journalist named Herzl to found a new movement. Dreyfus’ nose in the photo is unremarkable, but it takes on leviathan proportions in the minds of anti-semitic French caricaturists (see below).
According to this article:
[Gillman’s upcoming book] Written on the Body presents aesthetic surgery as a worldwide phenomenon whose popularity has ebbed and flowed according to the tastes and attitudes of particular historical periods. The book walks the reader through the full range of aesthetic surgeries practiced since they began as religious rites in ancient India, explaining, says Gilman, â€œwhat gets cut, what gets chiseled, whoâ€™s the first doctor to do a procedure, and what it looks like.â€ For example, he describes how in 1894 Berlin surgeon Jacques Joseph developed the first face-altering procedures, primarily in response to German Jews who wanted to reduce the size of their noses to avoid being stereotyped as cold and mercantilist.
I think what we can learn from all this is that haters will hate, no matter what. Anti-Semitism and other forms of hate are innately irrational. Dreyfuss had an ordinary nose, and they still depicted him in the most grotequely anti-semitic way possible. German Jews pioneered nose jobs and 45 years later they were being shoved into ovens by the people whose approval they sought. I’d be more eloquent but the sabbath queen awaits. Feel free to discuss this amongst yourselves.
Big hat tip to What Would Phoebe Do? from whom most of this was outright lifted.