The Non-Death of Neoliberalism Conference Call for Papers

York St. John University will be hosting the Non-Death of Neoliberalism Conference on Friday 25th May 2018. If you (or someone you know ) is an early career researcher this is a excellent place to exhibit your research, engage in critical debate with other researchers, and hear informed and creative talks on issues relating to the ways neoliberal policy and ideology have impacted society. If you are interested or have any questions please direct your inquiries to

Call for Papers:

CfP: The Non-Death of Neoliberalism

York St. John University, Friday 25th May 2018


Building on the inaugural Crime, Culture and Social Harm conference at York St. John University last year, the ‘Non-Death of Neoliberalism’ conference invites papers that explore the impact of neoliberalism on social, cultural and political harm. The aim of the conference is to facilitate a range of interdisciplinary antagonisms that push back against nascent forms of neoliberalism – that is, those adapted/adapting manifestations borne of the decade-old financial crisis – and the variety of increasingly destructive problems these approaches create: this might involve new and terrifying financial realities, neoliberal designs on the imagined future of post-Brexit Britain, or tactical interventions that seek to dismantle damaging ideological frameworks. Either way, the intention is to develop a network and space for conversations with critical practitioners and scholars of zemiology, and encourage future collaborative projects stemming from the conference.


We are especially keen to welcome early career researchers who deal with, amongst other things, the following indicative topics:


  • Power and political economy
  • Government policy, democracy and austerity
  • War and technology
  • Debt and gambling
  • Brexit and freedom
  • Public services, the NHS and education
  • Gentrification and housing
  • The decline of the academy
  • The military-industrial-entertainment complex
  • Cultural articulations of neoliberal doctrine



Submission of abstracts:

Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be submitted – alongside a biography of no more than 100 words – to Proposed papers can take a variety of forms: we encourage creative thinking around this.


The deadline for submissions is March 16th. Successful speakers will be contacted the following week.

Welcome (back) to sociology and criminology at York St. John!

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Welcome everyone to an exciting year here at York St. John. The sociology and criminology faculty are thrilled to be getting this term under way, and to be meeting all of the new students and welcoming back all of the returning familiar faces. We have a bunch of great new faculty members for you to meet this year too. Over the next few weeks we will be introducing you to them on this blog. We’ll be posting their picture and a bit about their research and interests. So keep visiting to get introduced to all of your new favourite lecturers, and to get reintroduced to your old favourites as well.

Also, if you have any questions that you want answered about the department, or faculty that you’d specifically like covered and want to know more about, or if you’d like to help write this blog and post your thoughts about the program please email and we’ll make sure we we get to whatever it is you’re interested in. Be in touch. We’ve got you covered.

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‘What are you working on’… Benedikt Lehmann

After the previous three pieces by Rob Creasy, Matt Spokes and Jack Denham – the latter of whom passed his PhD viva with the usual minor corrections earlier this week – it falls to me to say a few words about my current research and activities. Unlike Jack’s, my viva has not been scheduled yet, so I am still some time off that monumental, but as I am told, frequently anti-climactic event. So for the time being, I will have to remain slightly jealous of my colleague’s recent success.

That said most of the last few months have been occupied with writing my own PhD, so I should perhaps provide a bit of an overview of the thesis at this stage. The project deals with high-frequency and algorithmic trading, which have been linked to a number of destabilising market events in recent years. This includes the so-called ‘Quants Meltdown’ in 2007, a misbehaving algorithm which cost Knight Capital $400+ million in August 2012, and most famously, the ‘Flash Crash’ on 6 May 2010, resulting in a nine percent drop of the Dow Jones in the course of a few minutes. While devised primarily as a theoretical endeavour, the research draws on a mixture of ethnographic and more traditional interviews to examine the emergence of high-speed algorithmic trading in financial markets. Employing a specifically criminological perspective concerned with the critique of an unethical society and its political economy – as opposed to an analysis of crime defined in socio-legal terms – the study highlights a deeper systemic drive for ‘frictionless’ capitalism unburdened from marked barriers of capital accumulation. It is argued that the manifestation of this drive in the advancement of computerisation and algorithmic automatisation creates complex organisational arrangements and networks which work to cultivate and deploy ‘strategic ignorance’ in regulatory knowledge practices, while reaffirming the power and influence of neoliberal economics and disavowing its harmful dynamics.

In autumn 2016 I also submitted an article to the German criminology journal Kriminologisches Journal titled ‘High-frequency trading and the technological constitution of anomie’. This was part of a special issue on Sociotechnical Perspectives for Criminology and it was finally published earlier this month (07/2017).

As with most academics, I have several projects on the back burner and a few others floating around at the ‘idea stage’. One of these is a joint project with Matthew Spokes and Jack Denham, which explores the contested memorialisation of deviant spaces on the basis of three individual case studies selected for their infamous history. For my own contribution, I will investigate the role of Dresden’s history, as the site of extensive Allied bombings towards the end of World War II, in the often nostalgic symbolism of right-wing protest movements. More than this, recent attempts to prevent such protests on the anniversary of the Dresden bombing by deploying a human chain around the city centre, are looked at, not as a sign of solidarity, but instead interpreted as working to repress the desire for political change.

‘What are you working on’…Matt Spokes

There are two answers to that question. The first relates to the research I’ve been doing over the last few months, and the three papers I’ve been working on.

The first paper operates as a quasi-response to Deborah Lupton’s work on the quantification of self, and self-tracking. This is a paper I’ve been writing with my former colleague Dr. Paul Chappell for the last 18 months, but it took until this month to reach a breakthrough with it: what the paper explores is how classificatory systems change as a result of human agency in data collection and analysis, with the case study being the overly-complicated drink-diary I kept during my PhD in which I listed every alcoholic beverage I consumed over a 5 year period.

The second paper, which is at the fieldwork stage, is a walking ethnography of state-sponsored gentrification programmes in London, specifically the 30 year rebuilding of the Woodberry Down estate. I’m conducting walking interviews of different areas of the rebuild to discuss change(s) with local residents and build a rich ethnography combining their dialogue with GiS mapping data and photographs: to what end, I’m not entirely sure, because I’ve purposely not set myself a question like that yet.

Developing some ideas I originally explored in my PhD, the third paper uses social network analysis to explore how modular synth enthusiasts develop support networks to offer advice to each other on how to build and play modular synthesizers. For this, I’m using network data collected via IssueCrawler from two modular synth festivals (Sines and Squares 2014, 2016) combined with document analysis of conference papers at the festival and online forums to unpack how different people with varying levels of involvement in modular synthesis engage with one another, drawing on Becker’s typology of ‘support personnel’ and ‘integrated professionals’ for theoretical ballast.

As has been the case throughout my admittedly fledgling academic career, I am adopting a magpie-like approach to my research, which I discuss in more detail here.

The second answer is that ‘what I’m currently working on’ is, as ever, ‘juggling many things’: part of being an early career researcher – someone up to 5-8 years out of finishing their PhD – is responding to the increasing array of expectations that the increasingly neoliberal higher education sector places on young academics by increasing your workload, which is both a tacit expectation but also a self-imposed approach. That include the preparation of new teaching materials, assessments, conference organizing and research along with the genuinely important things like not being a shit dad to my 20 month old daughter.

I should point out this is not a complaint about where I work, but about broader issues young academics experience that perhaps weren’t really a thing 10/15 years ago. The pressure placed on young academics by the REF and the upcoming TEF – whereby metrics that academic research suggests do not measure the things they set out – are used to decide whether or not we are effective researchers and educators. One way to facilitate a return to genuinely progressive and thoughtful research would be to radically rethink the ways in which quality and performance are judged.

‘What are you working on’…Jack Denham

Continuing our blog series on current research practice, it’s my turn to step into the digital limelight. In terms of research, I’m going to tell you briefly about four ongoing projects. One of which is almost completed, one will take but a day, one is yet to begin, and one is never-ending.

My PhD – submitted

PhD write up has taken almost every second of my non-lecturing time of late, submitted just three weeks ago. The final piece of this puzzle was the abstract, which is probably the easiest way for me to summarise this work for you:

This thesis investigates crime memorabilia, or ‘true crime objects’, and proposes the concept of ‘authenticity’ as a way of understanding the perceived value and imagined criminality inside of objects, artefacts, exhibitions and consumables associated with famous violent crimes. Murderabilia has enjoyed a sustained rise in interest in both news media and popular culture, but academic research has been limited. It addresses a central contradiction in the paucity of literature that has touched upon murderabilia – to what extent is murderabilia an extension of existing violent transgressive narratives in popular culture; or a will to transgress these mainstream discourses themselves; or a combination thereof? To that end, this thesis seeks to understand where the consumption of criminal transgression sits as part of the broader system of objects, and the broader popular cultural genre of true crime as well. Through a digital and traditional ethnography conducted over ten months (September 2014 – July 2015), covering museum exhibitions of murderabilia, personal murderabilia collections, and manufactured murder merchandise, murderabilia is revealed as a complicated negotiation of some of the contradicting demands of art, culture, antique – and consumerism. It is argued that the consumption of murder objects is reflective of a broader societal will to transgress banality and sameness in 21st century Western consumer capitalist marketplaces, and not as an embracement or glorification of criminal transgression itself. Consumers are positioned in pursuit of experiences of perceived authenticity, despite embracing dominant popular cultural narratives of crime in the process.

York City Big Read – just a day

For one hour in the evening of Tuesday 19th September, I’ll be doing a public lecture on the merging of crime fiction and crime fact for York City Library’s York City Big Read festival – more information on this to follow in the coming weeks at

Deviant Spaces – yet to begin

My first project after PhD completion – with Matt Spokes and Ben Lehmann, I’ll be reviving an old project idea that I had back as an MA student to investigate how the dead, particularly victims of famous violent crimes, inhabit space and place through differing approaches to memorialisation. We’re hoping to turn this into a book – again, expect updates on this intermittently via

Death and Culture – ongoing

Ongoing is the development of the Death and Culture Network. We have a call for book proposals for our new book series Emerald Studies in Death and Culture, dates announced for the biennial conference (7-8 September ’18), and keynotes as well – information on all available on the website.

‘What are you working on’…Rob Creasy

*Over the Summer, academic staff in Social Sciences will be posting updates on what they’re working on in terms of their research: up first, subject director Dr. Rob Creasy*

I have just submitted a book to Palgrave Macmillan which we hope will be published by Xmas. This means that you can put this on your Xmas list for Santa. The book is to be titled “The Taming of Education: contemporary approaches to teaching and learning” and draws upon Sociology, Social Policy and Education Studies to argue that over recent decades the way in which we provide education has changed in ways that make it not fit for purpose. It draws upon the work of Rittel & Webber (1973) in using the concept of wicked problems to argue that education has increasingly been seen as a process and where that process has become tame. This is not a good thing. It is the basis of the third level module The taming of education! Basically it doesn’t matter if you see education in an idealistic way as contributing to your self-development or a utilitarian way, as only having value in how it can get you a job, education that is tamed is impoverished. Think about how at 6th form you were expected to learn a script and focus on a right answer. This is tame. Think about how some students are solely focused on content and getting the right things in, this is tame. Education needs to be able to promote creativity and originality but it often doesn’t do this because of a focus on targets and passing. The thing is that education is not a process in the way that a manufacturing process is and you aren’t buying a degree. There is uncertainty to education but uncertainty reflects the concept of wickedity and many people don’t like the idea of this.

As a process the book draws upon work that I did for my doctorate but develops this and widens it so it’s about 25% doctoral thesis and 75% new material. It’s taken me about a year to write and has provided a few headaches along the way. It’s my first book so has been a new challenge for me but very rewarding. In fact I am now thinking of pitching to write a textbook aimed at students on courses related to the wider Children’s workforce as this reflects work that I did between 2009 – 2015 so it will be a matter of organising class notes. The plan is to do this as a joint book with my wife so that will ease the workload. Whatever happens, I will expect to be busy over the next year writing a paper or two for a journal and looking to get started on the textbook. Ideas for papers are always welcomed.

Introducing…Dr. Beverly Geesin


I’m Beverly and I’ve been a lecturer at York St John since 2008. I’m a ‘Citizen of the World’, or a ‘Citizen of Nowhere’ according to Theresa May. I’m also American, from North Carolina or the suburbs of Washington, DC, depending on how you define ‘from’. I originally moved to the UK to do my MA in Interactive Media at Goldsmiths College in London. I chose Goldsmiths because I thought of myself as a bit ‘arty’ and it was mentioned in a song by the Television Personalities. While I was there I developed a passion for French sociologist, Henri Lefebvre, and complaining about surveillance. Those interests then evolved into my PhD thesis, completed in 2012 at the University of York, entitled ‘Resistance to Surveillance in Everyday Life’ which used the work of Henri Lefebvre and the Situationists to develop a framework for understanding everyday monitoring and everyday practices of resistance.

After a semester as a visiting lecturer in Media Studies I began working at YSJ full-time in 2008 running the BA Communication and Culture programme and taught on International Studies, Peace Studies and English Language and Linguistics. When the Communication and Culture programme was closed I moved to English Language and Linguistics where I mainly spend my time teaching modules such as Language and Identities, Analysing Media Texts and E-Communication at BA and MA level as well as supervising PhD students. I began teaching on the new Sociology programme in 2015.

Like my teaching background, my research is interdisciplinary. I’m happy to rummage for ideas across many disciplines. The work from my PhD has sort of split into four main areas of research.

  • ‘Consumption of Surveillance’ – Within my PhD I explored how consuming surveillance works to ideologically legitimate surveillance practices. I have expanded upon this with research on the use of surveillance technologies in Las Vegas casinos and how tourists consume both vice and surveillance. This work was funded via a visiting fellowship at the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Additionally, I have begun a Critical Discourse Analysis of toys which use artificial intelligence and surveillance to explore how children are socialised to embrace surveillance through the consumption of such toys.
  • ‘New forms of collective action towards precarious labour’ – The Taxi Workers Association of Pennsylvania was a case study for my PhD. I was interested in how the taxi drivers had adapted traditional forms of collective action to contest the introduction of GPS (global positioning systems) within cabs across the city of Philadelphia. More recently, with funding from the British Academy of Management, I have been looking at forms of collective action deployed to preserve the fishing industry on a small island off the coast of North Carolina. While centred upon saving the fishing industry this project is also tied to debates over tourism, regulation, community and identity. Finally, using job advertisements as data, I have been looking at the ways in which casinos in Las Vegas circumvent employment regulation in the hiring of seasonal cocktail waitresses.
  • ‘Theories of Resistance’ – This work draws upon the theoretical side of my PhD considering what ‘counts’ as resistance and how practices of subversion and evasion can be integrated into everyday life with a focus on resistance to everyday forms of monitoring and surveillance. Again taking a inter-disciplinary approach, this research draws upon ideas from sociology, cultural studies, new media studies and contemporary art.
  • ‘Political discourse and new media’ – Lastly, politician’s use social media as a way of communicating and connecting directly with the public. But, is the public that they engage with through social media truly representative of the public more broadly?  And, what are the implications for political discourse when politicians are increasingly communicating via social media? The approach to this work is to examine how brief but intense controversies involving UK politicians play out via Twitter.

Beyond my academic life, I am obsessed with music, having been a musician for many years, and my cat, Washington.

Second year Sociology students visit ‘Flesh’

‘Flesh’ is a temporary exhibition at the York Art Gallery that explores how artists investigate and represent the body in their work. The website states that the exhibition raises questions  about the body and ageing, race and gender, touch and texture and surface and skin . In Social Inequalities: Contemporary Debates, students are asked to reflect on disability, age and sexuality through the lens of bodies and identities amongst others. A common thread that connects all these issues is the importance of the body/ies in the process of identity formation.  We reflect on the idea of inequalities being ‘under our skin’ (Gunaratnam 2013) and how some bodies emanate power whilst others are restrained, controlled, objectified, harmed, left to die, killed… If some inequalities are under our skin, what can we do as agents to resist the impoverishment of life chances that is faced by individuals in society? In this post, sociology students at York St John attempt to make the artworks relevant to the study of social inequalities.

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Cosmetic surgery

Jonathan Yeo’s ‘Augmentation’ (2011) and ‘A Picture of Health: Property of Jo Spence?’ (1982) by Jo Spence, both explore themes of the body and surgery, however the medical discourse explored in each is different.  It is clear in Spence’s piece that the surgery was for medical, and so practical, reason.  This differs from Yeo’s painting which uses surgery for material purpose.  There were over 50,000 plastic surgery procedures performed in the UK in 2013 (British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, 2014).  This statistic highlights the relevance of Yeo’s work, as themes of self-esteem, quality of life, shame and other psychological and social issues are central to the reasons why many people, particularly women, have plastic surgery.

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Jonathan Yeo (b. 1970), Secondary Augmentation Mastoplexy LOW (2011)

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Jo Spence (1934-19992), A Picture of Health: Property of Jo Spence? (1982)

When examining the body and modernity, it is easy to see why people have cosmetic surgery.  Bordo (1993:16) highlights that “culture’s grip on the body is constant”, hence the relevance of cosmetic surgery, as there are social pressures that change people’s views of themselves and their bodies.  Societies’ norms around the body place pressure on people to fit into the ideal, seen every day in the media (Ricciardelli & Clow, 2009), which can pressure to conform to the sexualised and unrealistic image of women implicated by men (and vice-versa), the desire to be thin and have the ‘right’ breasts appears to be the dominant ideal in contemporary British society (Bordo, 1993).

Linking back to Yeo’s work, it is important to discuss the reasons why women have this particular type of surgery.  Many scholars argue that women have breast augmentation to help their self-esteem (Crerand et al, 2007; Zuckerman et al, 2016).  However, it has also been suggested that women who feel the need to conform to achieving the ideal body are instead more likely to have depression or anxiety (Meningaud et al, 2003).  Both of these issues are present in the painting.  There is a focus on the breasts as a popular form of cosmetic surgery, but also part of the face, which appears saddened and then fades.  This could highlight the lack of mental stability in some patients who exhibit anxiety and so turn to cosmetic surgery.  Clearly, Yeo’s painting supports the view that women who undergo surgeries of this type lack self-esteem, perhaps linking to studies which suggest that women who have cosmetic surgery have high suicide rates (McLaughlin et al, 2004).  This presents a link to Spence’s photograph, as it is clear that in this situation the patient has lost ownership of her body because of her illness; her body is the property of medicine.

Nevertheless, there are feminist scholars suggesting that women can use plastic surgery to not only conform to body ideals, but also to rebel against these norms; Clow (2009) argues that with the increased normalisation and acceptance of body modification comes the opportunity for some women to express their independence and individuality either with or against body ideals, because of the commodification of the medical industry.  Furthermore, we can also use Foucault’s notion of discipline to illustrate how using self-surveillance, people can choose either to regulate their bodies by following the norm, or go against it.

Overall, it is clear that there are differing and changing views of cosmetic surgery, although people may be becoming more accepting of cosmetic surgery (Adams, 2012), the health risks and psychology of the patients/consumers is clearly a focus point for many scholars and indeed artists such as Yeo.  Furthermore, we must also consider those that have surgery for medical reasons and do not achieve a desirable outcome and their views of surgery.

Representation of old age

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John Coplans (1920-2003), Frize No.6, Two Panels  (1994, printed 2002)

John Coplan’s, Frieze No.6 Two Panels (1994) is a self-portrait that represents an ageing body.  Coplan looks at the truths of the body rather than focusing on young airbrushed pictures. The use of tight cropping and the white grid on the portrait could create a claustrophobic feel as if the body will not fit into the formal structure which is expected of it.  This may reflect the idealistic body image that is held within society due to media portrayals.

Coplan’s portrait could in some ways be linked to Harold Gilman’s painting, Interior with Nude.  Old bodies are normally seen as asexual, whereas these two pieces could bring in the notion of sexual desire and reclaiming sexuality within an ageing body.  Mainstream media often publish images of women in a way that emphasises the sexual nature of their bodies; the fact that Coplan obscures his head could be linked to this idea of sexualisation.  In Gilman’s painting it could argued to be a deviant representation of the older body, in that the woman isn’t hiding any part of her.  It suggests her not to be the stereotypical passive woman that was expected within that era, in fact she could be seen as a sexual agent.

No Control: Representations of gender

In the exhibit Flesh, featured at the York Art Gallery, there are three pieces that serve to highlight themes of masculinity vs femininity, action vs passivity, and agency vs control over the female body.

(c) York Museums Trust; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Pieter Claesz Soutman (1593-1657), Samson and Delilah (1642)

The story of Samson and Delilah depicted in this work is a biblical one. Samson was given strength by God, which was derived through the length of his hair. Delilah was a woman he loved. In the story Delilah is bribed by the Philistines to lull Samson to sleep, so they may cut his hair and take away his God-given strength. This story and this painting reminds us of the Cartesian dichotomy of mind and body, as well as the long understood notion that men were creatures of the mind and women of the body, therefore justifying patriarchy and the objectification of women. It seems the women in this painting are inactive and are represented as passive tools as the active man takes the strength from another man. We argue that the conflict is between the men, and the women are only bodies used for the agendas of these men. This reflects the ideas of women in society at the time and remind us of the representational issues women still face today.

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John Stezaker (b. 1949), Fall XII and Fall XIII (1992)

In Fall XII and Fall XIII (1992), Stezaker uses collage to embody the images of masculinity and femininity. To do so, however, in both pieces he uses both male and female bodies, and in doing so he highlights the essence of masculinity and femininity as social constructs rather than fixed truths of the body. These images visualize the discussion of corporeality vs sociality and suggest that the aspects of gender go beyond biological bodies.

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Gina Pane (1939-1990), Azione Sentimentale (1973)

Gina Pane’s ‘Azione Sentimentale’ (1973) performance art focuses on the pleasures and pains of the body, and in most of her pieces she inflicts pain on herself to derive empathy and critical thinking from her audience and viewers. These photographs depict Pane inflicting injury on herself by piercing her arm with rose thorns and cutting her hand with a razor blade. One can easily suggest that this performance represents the pain suffered by women and female bodies. However, we argue there is a sense of agency and control over this pain. Pane methodically positions the thorns in a line down her forearm and then cuts her palm at the end of the line, transferring the image of the red rose from the physical roses she holds to the visual representation on her arm. The thorns in this case act as the stem and the blood acts as the petals. This sense of beauty in pain and self-inflicted injury suggests an idea of reclaiming the bodies of women and females. We argue by choosing when and how she feels pain, Pane is taking agency over her own body and, even if for only a moment, refuting the pain and injustice pressed upon her body and mind by the society in which she has no control.

Representation of race in The Wrestlers

Within this William Etty’s painting (c. 1840) we are presented with a black man and a white man wrestling. It could be seen that the white man is wearing a rag, whereas the black man is naked and exposed. This could suggest that only the privileged has access to clothing which highlights there is a divide between the two people in the painting. As well as this, the black man’s face is not shown on the painting, this is suggesting that this man is more animalistic than intellectual and more connected to nature.  Furthermore, the towering position of the white man could reflect the era in which they lived in. This is because he is in a stronger and more dominating position, which could highlight how ethnic minorities were repressed and controlled by white supremacy.

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William Etty (1787-1849), The Wrestlers (c. 1840)

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BRITISH ASSOCIATION OF AESTHETIC PLASTIC SURGEONS., 2014 [last update]. Online, available at [accessed 21-Oct-16].

CRERAND, C.E., INFIELD, A.L., and SARWER.D.B., 2007. Psychological Considerations in Cosmetic Breast Augmentation. Plastic Surgical Nursing. 27(3), pp146-154.

GUNARATNAM, Y. 2003. Death and the Migrant: Bodies, Borders and Care. London: Bloosmbury Academic.

MCLAUGHLIN, J.K., WISE, T.N., and LIPWORTH, L., 2004. Perspective: Increased Risk of Suicide Among Patients with Breast Implants: Do the Epidemiologic Data Support Psychiatric Consultation? Psychosomatics. 45(4), pp277-280.

MENINGAUD, J.P., BENADIBA, L., SERVANT, J.M., HERVE, C., BERTRAND, J.C., and PELICIER, Y., 2003. Depression, Anxiety and Quality of Life: Outcome 9 Months After Facial Cosmetic Surgery. Journal of Cranial-Maxillofacial Surgery. 31(1), pp46-50.

RICCIARDELLI, ROSEMARY., and CLOW, KIMBERLEY., 2009. Men, Appearance and Cosmetic Surgery: The Role of Self-Esteem and Comfort with the Body. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 34(1), pp105-134.

ZUCKERMAN, D.M., KENNEDY, C.E., and TERPLAN, M., 2016. Breast Implants, Self-Esteem, Quality of Life and the Risk Suicide. Women’s Health Issues. 26(4), pp361-