Obesity and the Rejection of Body Normativity
Wednesday 18 May 2011
CMCI Work Room (formerly the Art Exhibition Room, on the ground floor of the South East Block), King’s College London, Strand Campus
17:30-19:00 followed by a wine reception

Following our successful launch in 2010, GenderMatters@King’s, a research network of gender studies and feminist theories across King’s College London, is now organizing a series of seminars on the theme of “Gender and Mental Well Being: Inter-disciplinary Perspectives”, funded by King’s Graduate School. Our first seminar will focus on exploring the subject of ‘Obesity and the Rejection of Body Normativity’, highlighting not only the gendered aspects of institutional interventions that attempt to govern bodies, but also the emancipatory potential of ‘body shape diversity’ discourses on fatness and fat identity, and their contestation against the weight-centred approach toward health.

“What do I eat, love?”
Obesity surgery and the reproduction of gender
Karen Throsby, The University of Warwick

Obesity surgery is conventionally understood through the lens of weight-related health discourses; it is the intervention of last resort for those whose bodies are deemed both medically and socially to be dangerously, intractably fat. Approximately 80% of all obesity surgery patients are women, but the gendering of obesity surgery as a practice extends far beyond the distribution of men and women among the patient population. Drawing on ethnographic research conducted in an obesity surgery clinic, this presentation argues that the practice of obesity surgery, both within and outside of the clinic, not only leaves unaddressed troubling social and bodily gender norms, but actively reiterates and reproduces those norms. This presentation explores the gendering of obesity surgery, including patient candidacy, the everyday work of managing the post-surgical body, and the distribution of responsibility for treatment outcomes. I conclude by considering the implications of this for ! those working within critical fat politics.

“She was so viscerally happy in that moment”
Fat Activism for Well Being
Charlotte Cooper, The University of Limerick

Dominant obesity discourse in 21st century Western culture is steeped in the abjection of fat people, and that this impacts negatively on our health. A Social Model of fat activism remedies this problem by addressing systemic fat hatred and helping to create more livable lives for fat people (Cooper, 1998). Fat activism re-imagines fat embodiment and agency, collectively it spans continents and has historical links over four decades. Cooper will talk about her research into this social movement, and presents case studies which both support and reject body normativity.


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