Marc Lafrance is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. The winner of two Commonwealth Scholarships, he earned his M.St. and D.Phil. in Cultural Studies at the University of Oxford while receiving additional training at the British Institute of Psychoanalysis and the École normale supérieure. Lafrance’s research focuses on questions of subjectivity and embodiment and how each, in its own way, informs human identity. He has published widely on psychoanalyst Didier Anzieu, best known for his work on the relationship between the skin and the self. Lafrance’s research has been featured in edited collections such as Skin, Culture and Psychoanalysis and peer-reviewed journals such as Body and Society. The editors of Body and Society devoted a special section of a recent issue to Lafrance’s work on the skin, crediting it with “encouraging more transdisciplinary dialogue across the humanities and social sciences, re-invigorating discussion and taking debate on the relations between bodies, selves and culture in new and perhaps unforeseen directions.” Lafrance is currently guest editing a double special issue of Body and Society on the rise of “skin studies.”
My branch of the research will investigate the relationship between the skin, the self and the social and how this relationship is affected by the embodied experience of acne vulgaris. The most common type of skin disorder, acne vulgaris –particularly in its severe and/or visible forms – is known to lead to a variety of psychosocial outcomes such as low self-confidence; fear of going out in public; trouble securing paid employment and reticence to enter into romantic relationships. When and if acne patients decide to seek medical help for their skin conditions, they are then confronted by a number of other problems such as the scrutiny associated with the clinical gaze; the pressure to eat, sleep and live differently; and the often considerable side effects caused by pharmaceutical treatments. In my part of the study, I will examine how the bodies of acne patients are regulated by and through the normative imperatives of contemporary Western societies. More specifically, I will investigate how dominant norms linked to collective conceptions of personal hygiene and physical attractiveness come to exert a kind of social control over the bodies of acne patients. In other words, I will consider how the acne-prone skins of adults who suffer with and from a visible and relatively severe form of acne are ‘disciplined’ by these norms; that is, induced into making sense of and caring for their skins in ways that generate regulatory effects. With this in view, the study will consist of two axes of analyses: the experiential and the normative. Through my examination of these two axes, I hope to shed light on this at once enormously common and surprisingly under-researched phenomenon and how it relates to in more general terms to the regulation of the senses in contemporary Western societies.
Lafrance, M., Guest Editor. (Accepted/Forthcoming, 2018). “Skin Matters: Thinking the Body’s Surface Across the Disciplines.” Body and Society, Special Issue.
Lafrance, M., & Carey, R.S. (Accepted/Forthcoming, 2018). “Skin Work: Understanding the Embodied Experience of Acne.” Body and Society, Special Issue.
Carey, R.S., & Lafrance, M. (Accepted/Forthcoming, 2018). “Bad Skin: Acne and the Dermatologisation of Everyday Life.” Social Theory and Health.
Lafrance, M., (2013). “From the Skin Ego to the Psychic Envelope: An Introduction to the Work of Didier Anzieu.” In S. Cavanagh, A. Failler and R. Hurst (Eds.), Skin, Culture and Psychoanalysis (pp. 16-45). New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Lafrance, M. (2009). “Skin and the Self: Cultural Theory and Anglo-American Psychoanalysis.” Body and Society, 15(3), 3-24.
Lafrance, M. (2004). “Exposing the Body: Didier Anzieu and the Psychoanalysis of Skin.” In K. Banks & J. Harris (Eds.), Exposure: Revealing Bodies, Unveiling Representations (pp. 23-34). Bern: Peter Lang Press.
Lafrance, M. (2004). “Skin.” In J. Eadie (Ed.), Sexuality: The Essential Glossary (pp. 213-214). London: Arnold Press.
Related Conference Presentations
Lafrance, M., & Carey, S. (2017, June).“Skin Work: Acne Sufferers and the Dermatologisation of Everyday Life.” International Visual Sociology Association, Montreal, Quebec (Canada).
Lafrance, M. (2015, July). “Sensitive Skins: Didier Anzieu and the Sensory Life of the Body.” The Other Senses in Medical and Literary Culture, Konstanz University, Konstanz (Germany).
Lafrance, M. (2015, April). “The Skin We Live In.” The Walrus Talks Speaker Series: What it Means to be Human in Life, Culture, Art and Science, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (Canada).
Lafrance, M. (2008, April). “Containing the Body: Anglo-American Approaches to the Psychoanalysis of Skin.” Keynote speech delivered at the Uncontained Body Graduate Student Conference, Concordia University, Montreal (Canada).
Lafrance, M. (2005, May). “Just After Birth: Skin and the Self in the Earliest Moments of Life.” Paper presented at the international conference Birth/Marriage/Death, University of Stirling, Stirling (Scotland).
Lafrance, M. (2003, December). “Psychic Skins: Didier Anzieu’s Metaphors of the Mind.” Paper presented at the international conference Approaching the Unapproachable, Queen’s University, Kingston (Canada).
Lafrance, M. (2003, May). “In the Skin of the Moment: A Psychoanalytic Reading of Bodily Surface.” Paper presented at the international conference The Flesh Made Text: Bodies, Theories, Cultures in the Post-Millennial Era, Aristotle University, Thessaloniki (Greece).
Lafrance, M. (2003, April). “Living in Skin: Towards a Psychoanalysis of Bodily Surface.” Paper presented at the Modern Languages Research Seminar, University of Oxford, Oxford (England).
Lafrance, M. (2002, November). “An Introduction to Didier Anzieu’s Psychoanalysis of Skin.” Paper presented at the French Studies Research Seminar, University of Oxford, Oxford (England).
Lafrance, M. (2002, March). “Exposing the Body: Didier Anzieu and the Psychoanalysis of Skin.” Paper presented at the French Studies Research Conference, Cambridge University, Cambridge (England).
Lafrance, M. (2001, May). “Skin Matters: Didier Anzieu and ‘Le Moi-Peau.’” Paper presented at the International Association for Philosophy and Literature, Spelman College, Atlanta (USA).
Lafrance, M. (2017). Featured on Les éclaireurs, Radio Canada Première. “Les effets des problèmes de peau dans le quotidien.” Sophie Andrée Blondin, 25 April. http://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/les-eclaireurs/segments/entrevue/21775/acne-effets-psychologiques
Lafrance, M. (2017). Featured in Québec Science. “La peau que j’habite.” Mélissa Guillemette, 30 March. http://www.quebecscience.qc.ca/Sante/La-peau-que-jhabite