Face and facial disfigurations: Self and alterations of self

  • Florentina C. Andreescu University of North Carolina
Keywords: face, facial disfigurations, Jacques Lacan, the gaze, trauma, war


This article explores facial disfigurations and the alterations they trigger in the shared social space. It places an emphasis on the trauma associated with acquiring severe facial wounds, as well as with coming into visual contact with disfigured faces. These themes are explored through three layers of analysis. The first is the author's personal account of an encounter with a severely wounded face, which she experienced as profoundly altering her identity and social space. The second stresses the structural underlay of one's experience of an embodied face. The article engages with a Lacanian framework that posits that a person's face is formed in three ontological registers: the symbolical, the imaginary, and the real. When the face is disfigured and the eyes do not look back but an abyss returns the look instead, one's own subjectivity is threatened as one is disquietingly made aware of what Jean-Paul Sartre (1943/1992) and Jacques Lacan (1988) each called “the gaze”. The third layer of analysis includes various accounts of mediating the trauma of disfigurement, such as disfigured soldiers' experiences, as well as additional examples borrowed from films, novels, and art shows. Together they aim to show different trauma closure techniques used at the personal and social levels.


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How to Cite
Andreescu, F. C. (2017). Face and facial disfigurations: Self and alterations of self. Psychotherapy & Politics International, 15(2). Retrieved from https://ojs.aut.ac.nz/psychotherapy-politics-international/article/view/511