Of Flesh and Mesh: Time, materiality, and health in surgical recovery

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Surgical interventions are rarely the focus of medical anthropology projects. However here I argue they offer an opportunity for a different kind of engagement with the body. Alongside approaches that seek to include material aspects of health and illness within ethnographic enquiry, the body in surgery reinforces that we can never be separated from the material world; our bodies and health are both constituted of and made through the material. Focusing on synthetic surgical mesh as a method of repairing or supporting damaged pelvic floor tissue, I consider the interactions through which mesh and flesh integrate to form a new material within the human body. Mesh-flesh integration emerges as a developing process that the surgery itself merely instigates, situated not only in particular spaces but over time and coming together in ways which may improve a woman’s health or may develop into ongoing ‘complications.’ Health here therefore relies on a particular type of fusing to occur. Following Haraway (2008), this paper asks ‘What is being touched when mesh is attached to flesh?’ to consider the natural, social, cultural, political and economic history of both mesh and flesh; the times and spaces ‘folded’ into these objects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMedical Materialities: Toward a Material Culture of Medical Anthropology
EditorsA Parkhurst, T Carroll
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2019

Publication series

NameRoutledge Studies in Health and Medical Anthropology
PublisherTaylor Francis


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