Obesity, Culture, and Symbolic Body Capital
Publication Year: 2017
The average size of human bodies all over the world has been steadily rising over recent decades. The total count of people clinically labeled “obese” is now at least three times what it was in 1980. Fat Planet represents a collaborative effort to consider at a global scale what fat stigma is and what it does to people. Making use of an array of social science perspectives applied in multiple settings, the authors examine the interplay of weight, wealth, history, culture, and meaning to fat and its social rejection. They explore the notion of symbolic body capital—the power of non-fat bodies to do what people need or want. In so doing, they illustrate the complex and quickly shifting dynamics in thinking about fat—often considered personal yet powerfully influenced by and influential upon the broader world in which we live.
Published by: University of New Mexico Press
Title Page, Copyright
List of Illustrations
This book is the outcome of a long process, made possible through multiple organizations. First, Arizona State University and Case Western Reserve University supported the early seeds of this collaboration. The National Science Foundation Cultural Anthropology Program supported exploratory research on the ethnography of comparative fat stigma born of conversations among the coeditors. Program officers Deborah Winslow and Jeffrey Mantz have been remarkable in their diligence and feedback, making...
Introduction: Making Sense of the New Global Body Norms
One of the most profound biological changes for the human species has been the consistent rise in average body mass over the last several decades. In 2015, the World Health Organization reported that some two billion adults were overweight or obese.1 In all but the poorest nations in sub-Saharan Africa, technically overweight and obese bodies are becoming the new biological norm (Ng et al. 2014). From Fiji to Jamaica, and the United Arab Emirates to the United States, the average adult’s body mass index (BMI) is now well into the overweight range. In eight countries—four in the central Pacific and four in the Persian Gulf...
1: From Thin to Fat and Back Again: A Dual Process Model of the Big Body Mass Reversal
Daniel J. Hruschka
Over the past two decades, obesity researchers have consistently identified a reversal in the relationship between body size and economic resources (Dinsa et al. 2012; Hruschka 2012; Monteiro et al. 2004; Sobal and Stunkard 1989; Subramanian et al. 2011). For the poorest 80 percent of contemporary humanity living on less than USD 10 per day, increasing wealth translates to bigger (and fatter) bodies (Hruschka, Hadley, and Brewis 2014). As people become richer, however, this relationship flattens until it reaches a plateau at about USD 3,000–4,000 per capita per year (Dinsa et al. 2012; Monteiro et al. 2004). At this...
2: Managing Body Capital in the Fields of Labor, Sex, and Health
Alexander Edmonds and Ashley Mears
In many domains, attractiveness carries a value that can potentially be exchanged for other benefits. This valuing of the body can create new opportunities in such realms as fashion, service work, and sexual relationships, but it also can contribute to body commodification and pressures to change body shape and appearance. In this chapter we discuss the uses and limits of the concept of body capital in understanding how attractiveness is valued, exchanged, and managed in consumer...
3: Fat and Too Fat: Risk and Protection for Obesity Stigma in Three Countries
Eileen P. Anderson-Fye, Stephanie M. McClure, Maureen Floriano, Arundhati Bharati, Yunzhu Chen, and Caryl James
In an era of accelerating global obesity rates and increasing attention to the health risks of being overweight or obese, the question “How fat is too fat?” can begin to sound rhetorical. Obesity rates have more than doubled since 1980 (WHO 2015c). The World Health Organization has dubbed it a global “epidemic” (WHO 2015a) for more than a decade, and in 2014 its global economic impact was estimated to be $2 trillion (Dobbs and Sawers 2014), an amount comparable to the financial effects of tobacco or war and violence and 40 percent more than alcoholism...
4: Excess Gains and Losses: Maternal Obesity, Infant Mortality, and the Biopolitics of Blame
Monica J. Casper
This chapter explores the intersection of two public health “crises” in the United States: obesity and infant mortality. Obesity is typically represented as a global epidemic (WHO 2004), a “crisis” (Freedman 2011), and as “one of the most blatantly visible . . . public-health problems that threatens to overwhelm both more and less developed countries” (Torloni, Bertran, and Merialdi 2012). Infant mortality—the death of a child in the first year of life—is defined in the United States as an epidemic, though one that is often geographically...
5: Symbolic Body Capital of an “Other” Kind: African American Females as a Bracketed Subunit in Female Body Valuation
Stephanie M. McClure
With respect to the relationships among obesity, obesity stigma, symbolic body capital, and African American female bodies, Du Bois’s famous observation might end with “How does it feel to be an exception?” If symbolic body capital is a physical presentation that is emblematic of a desired or valued status, African American female bodies present a particular kind of problem with respect to the current view of obesity as a health concern with significant social repercussions. African American females are disproportionately represented...
6: Fat Is a Linguistic Issue: Discursive Negotiation of Power, Identity, and the Gendered Body among Youth
Nicole L. Taylor
In Bodies that Matter, Butler explores the relationship between language and the body, arguing that the material body is inseparable from discursively constructed norms and power relations. Her analysis provides a compelling rationale for examining not only how discourse influences perceptions about gendered body norms but also the “power relations that contour bodies” (1993, 17). Butler’s discussion of the relationships between discourse, power, and the body is wholly theoretical, drawing on poststructuralist, psychoanalytic, and feminist theories (e.g., Foucault, Freud, Irigiray, Kristeva, Lacan). Her theoretically...
7: Body Size, Social Standing, and Weight Management: The View from Fiji
Anne E. Becker
The conceptual framing of body weight as responsive to personal volition and practice is a half-truth (Friedman 2004) with historic and globally broad success. There is something intransigent about this fiction, which has gained immense traction both in the United States and in many other regions of the world. This particular frame positions body weight as a symbolic reservoir with opportunities for modulation that can be used to contrive a desired personal narrative on the one hand, or, when neglected, to invite disdain on the other. Whereas the cosmetic sleight of hand to inscribe or dress...
8: Glocalizing Beauty: Weight and Body Image in the New Middle East
The in-English conversation cited above shows no local rootedness. It was a
conversation that could have occurred on any college campus anywhere in the
modern world, and it highlights the globalizing influences that touch young
women’s lives, ranging from international media (Hello!) to transnational products
(Red Bull) to beauty and body concerns.
In reality, the conversation also included all sorts of local specificities. For example, Arabic words and phrases were sprinkled throughout, the three students could not leave their campus...
Conclusion: Fat Matters: Capital, Markets, and Morality
Rebecca J. Lester and Eileen P. Anderson-Fye
Taken together, the chapters in this volume illuminate several key issues involving the social and economic aspects of individual and group attitudes toward fat. Across different historical and cultural contexts, bodies with more fat have signaled and contributed to disparate levels of appeal and status. Sometimes they have held a positive valuation, at other times a great deal of stigma, and at yet other times a simultaneous segmented valuation such as by gender or urban/rural status. In contrast to studies that take “the body” to be simply a material instantiation of cultural values, the chapters...
Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2017
OCLC Number: 967457129
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Fat Planet