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School of Social and Political Science: Staff profiles


Alexander Edmonds

Alexander Edmonds
Professor Alexander Edmonds
Professor of Social and Medical Anthropology
3.24 18 Buccleuch Place Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0)131 650 9920

Short Bio

Alexander Edmonds is a social and medical anthropologist with regional specializations in the United States and Brazil.  His research has investigated a range of topics: the cultural dimensions of health and illness; plastic surgery; mental health; military veterans; psychiatric and psychological practice; health in international development; and Brazilian society and culture.  

Edmonds earned a BA with distinction in philosophy and religion from Stanford and a PhD with distinction in anthropology from Princeton.  He was a Woodrow Wilson Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of California, Los Angeles and currently holds a second appointment at the Centre for Social Science and Global Health at the University of Amsterdam.  

Edmonds has written about his research for news media, including the New York Times, and been interviewed about his work by BBC radio, the Associated Press, the Financial Times, and other media outlets in Europe and the Americas.


A focus of Edmonds' research is therapeutic work on the self and body in consumer societies.  His book, Pretty Modern: Beauty, Sex and Plastic Surgery in Brazil, tracks how Brazil, a nation with extremes of wealth and poverty, became a global leader in cosmetic surgery. It was awarded the Diana Forsythe prize from the American Anthropological Association, the Eileen Basker prize from the Society for Medical Anthropology, and honorable mentions in the Sharon Stevens and Roberto Reis book prizes.  

His current work is a multi-country, anthropological study of resilience and mental health among soldiers after combat.  It also examines current military mental health care and clinical reasoning about war syndromes.  Funded by a five-year “Starting Grant” from the European Research Council, it is being conducted in the United States, the Netherlands and Israel. His other work has been supported by the Social Science Research Council, the Woodrow Wilson Society at Princeton, the European Union 7th Framework Program, and the Andrew Mellon Foundation. 

Publications: books

2010. Pretty Modern: Beauty, Sex and Plastic Surgery in Brazil. Durham: Duke University Press.    

Read the introduction to Pretty Modern

Pretty Modern book cover










Journal articles and book chapters (selected)

Edmonds, A and Mears, A. (in press). "Managing Body Capital."  In Fat Planet. E. Anderson-Fye and A. Brewis Slade (eds.) Santa Fe: SAR Press.

(w. Nelson E, Ballestros M, Ecalada Soto D, Rodriguez O.) 2014. The Unintended Consequences of Sex Education: An Ethnography of a Development Intervention in Latin AmericaAnthropology & Medicine. 21(2):189-201. 

Edmonds, A and E. Sanabria. 2014. Medical Borderlands: Engineering the Body with Plastic Surgery and Hormonal Therapies in Brazil. Anthropology & Medicine. 21(2):202-16. 

Edmonds, A. 2014. Surgery-for-Life: Aging, Sexual Fitness and Self-Management in Brazil. Anthropology & Aging Quarterly 2014: 34 (4) 

Edmonds, A. 2013. Can Medicine be Aesthetic? Disentangling Beauty and Health in Elective Surgeries. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 27(2):233-52.

Edmonds, A. 2013. The Biological Subject of Aesthetic Medicine. Feminist Theory 14(1):65-82.

Edmonds, A. 2012. A Right to Beauty. Anthropology Now 4(1):3-9

Edmonds, A. 2012. Body Image in Non-Western Societies. The Encyclopedia of Body Image and Human Appearance. T. Cash (ed.) Elsevier. pp.238-242.  

Edmonds, A. 2011.  “Almost Invisible Scars”: Medical Tourism to Brazil. Signs 36 (2):297-302.  

Edmonds, A. 2009.  Learning to Love Yourself: Esthetics, Health and Therapeutics in Brazilian Plastic Surgery. Ethnos 74(4):465-489.  (Awarded David Edge Prize)

Edmonds, A. 2009.  'Engineering the Erotic': Aesthetic Medicine and Modernization in Brazil. In C. Heyes and M. Jones (eds.) Cosmetic Surgery: A Feminist Primer, pp. 153-169.  Farnham, UK: Ashgate.

Edmonds, A. 2008. Beauty and Health: Anthropological PerspectivesMedische Antropologie 20(1):151-162.

Edmonds, A. 2007.  'The Poor Have the Right to be Beautiful': Cosmetic Surgery in Neoliberal Brazil. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13(2): 363-381.

Edmonds, A. 2007. 'Triumphant Miscegenation': Reflections on Race and Beauty in Brazil. Journal of Intercultural Communication 28(1): 83-97.

Edmonds, A. 2002. No Universo da Beleza. ("In the Universe of Beauty") In M. Goldenberg (ed.) Nus & Vestidos. Rio de Janeiro: Record.

Teaching and research supervision

Edmonds has taught courses and supervises theses on medical anthropology, mental health and emotion, visual anthropology, international development, reproduction and sexuality, and the ethnography of Brazil and Latin America.


Read Edmonds' New York Times article,  "A Necessary Vanity."  

Read La beauté pour tous ("the right to beauty") in the Courrier International

Listen to roundtable discussion on vanity on the BBC World Service programme, "The Forum"

 Listen to interview on BBC radio 4, “Thinking Allowed”

Listen to interview on BBC radio 4 programme, "A History of Ideas" (5:40 minutes into the programme)

If you are interested in being supervised by Alexander Edmonds, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Social Anthropology; MSc (R) Social Anthropology