Analysing fatness: how fatness is perceived in different Western contexts


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This project is focused on the way ideas around embodiment are constructed and enforced across the western world. From the neoliberal initiatives that classify fatness as a failure to responsibly manage our body machines, to the anti-black roots of fatphobia, to the particular stress the beauty industry places upon women’s bodies, fatness sits at the intersection of multiple identities, a fact that is completely ignored in current medicalised discussions about ‘obesity’.

The details

This thesis examines popular culture as a site in which different socio-culturally embodied experiences of fatness are crafted, negotiated and tinkered with. Rather than considering the West as a homogeneous cultural site, this project complicates its topography by comparing and contrasting two different cases, both of which are considered part of the West – but with profoundly different histories: the United States and Greece. While the US is considered the center of Western production, Greece has a more complicated positionality. On one hand, a glorious past, cradle of democracy and precursor to the Enlightenment. On the other, a shabby present, financially mismanaged and with an ambiguous cultural connection to the East given its four centuries under Ottoman occupation.

While one could easily assign the United States as the influencer and Greece as the receiver, under minor cosmopolitanisms one can examine and trace how ancient Greece has influenced current body politics in the USA, and how a US-centric understanding of ancient Greece has influenced the way modern Greeks view themselves. The purpose of this research is thus twofold: one, to employ the concept of fatness as a tool in order to critically examine the modern Greek national identity; and two to use modern greek culture in order to de-stabilize the idea that the experience and perception of fatness is uniform across the perceived ‘West’.

Supervision team

The University of Melbourne: Dr Hannah McCann

The University of Potsdam: Professor Dr Anja Schwarz

First published on 2 September 2022.

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