Alka Menon

Area(s) of Interest:  Medical Sociology; Science and Technology Studies; Race and Ethnic Studies; Gender; Cultural Sociology; Sociology of Law; Qualitative Methods

Current Research
My dissertation examines the tailoring of surgical interventions to social identities within multicultural societies and the meanings of these interventions across two different societies – the U.S. and Malaysia – by a focused investigation of cosmetic surgery, an elective practice that changes patients’ appearance through modification of physical markers. This research investigates the varying impact of cosmetic surgery on raced bodies and notions of race, taking an intersectional approach that incorporates attention to gender, sexuality, and class. Through interviews with surgeons and patients in both countries, the study explores how surgeons and patients relate specific physical features to group identities such as race and gender. In comparing surgeons and patients from the U.S. and Malaysia, this project attends to local and global manifestations and interpretations of bodies and race, noting what about each is considered “natural” and how this is related to the “social.” The comparison between the two countries highlights the variable effects of markets and healthcare systems on medical practice and the body in an era of globalization and modernity, and how medicine in multicultural societies is affected by and re-shapes racial, cultural, national and other identities.

Social Science Research Council Dissertation Prospectus Development Fellowship, May-September 2014; Robert F. Winch Award for Best 2nd Year Paper, Department of Sociology, Northwestern University, Fall 2013; Graduate Affiliate, Medical Humanities and Bioethics Program, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, 2013-2015; Honorable Mention, National Science