‘Becoming The Body’ : An Investigation Into The Possibilities And Affordances Of ‘Medical Jewellery’

Noronha, Olga Maria Leite Ferreira Pinto. 2018. ‘Becoming The Body’ : An Investigation Into The Possibilities And Affordances Of ‘Medical Jewellery’. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This written thesis is a reflective account of the processes and outcomes of the jewellery practice-as-research I have been engaged with during the last five years – which I call ‘medical jewellery’. A short summary of the literature and ‘prior work’ review undertaken as part of the research is included and in this review the possibility for the practice led research is identified. As part of this, there is a description of the foundational loci of the work in the histories of medical practice and in body modification. The thesis looks into the social and psychological aspects of body modification and medical interventions on and in the body by analysing biomedical research into the repair of the body, surgical procedures, material compatibility and prosthetic design.

What I then outline in is the theoretical underpinnings of the work, the necessary practico-material considerations in producing ‘viable’ medical jewellery and the understanding of its reception in different contexts (medical and jewellery). I suggest an alternative way in which jewellery may operate, by means of adapting the perception of medical repair (from wound stitching to joint replacement), and inquiring on the feelings/perspectives about the body when repaired.

The work has come about through considering sites on and in the body at different ‘archaeological’ layers, (from outer to inner physical space) viz. orthotics 1 subdermal 2 , exodermal3, exo-corporeal4 and intracorporeal5 jewellery. These layers present a series of ‘medical jewels’ that recognise science, jewellery and technology as accomplices to the repair and enhancement of the ‘self’ while adding value to the mended body. Rather than only a medium for expression, the repaired or fixed body becomes a locus for experience, symbolism and aestheticisation – the jewel is understood as to both aestheticise the body (‘it becomes you’) and become integrated and integral to the body.

In this thesis, ‘becoming the body’ indexes an aesthetic enhancement of the body; naturalisation in the body - as a body replacement or part of it; completion or repair of the body and a prosthetic enhancement. By moving jewellery into this space, viz. surgical repair, the research and its practices test the boundary/edge of what jewellery is and is not, what it may mobilise, and how it may perform.

Also described in the writing that follows is the way the work is received in different publics and how it moves through and across different epistemic6 constructs (art and science). The ‘discursive-ness’ of the practice is defined by understanding how the different designs perform in different situations, provoking and rising questions that are both specific to and cross contrasting scenarios. Therefore, by intending to minimise or deflect the negative and mutilating effect inherent to medical repair, ‘medical jewellery’ seeks to comprehend how these speculative and propositional designs of aestheticised scientific technology and medical knowledge are emotionally and physically experienced, and what knowledge they gather and convey.

Ultimately, the thesis and practice research is addressed to other contemporary jewellers and to the scientific community.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Jewellery, Art. Design, Fashion, Engineering, Medical Jewellery, Medically Prescribed Jewellery, Body, Transhumanism, Posthumanism, Medicine, Surgery, Repair

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



31 July 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

28 Aug 2018 09:07

Last Modified:

12 Sep 2022 11:17



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