The Sociology of Fat

19th Sep 2013

Professor Deborah Lupton, Senior Principal Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy and
Co-Convener of the 'Cultures of Production/Consumption/Health' project node of the Charles Perkins Centre.

Deborah Lupton is Senior Principal Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy. Her latest books include Medicine as Culture: Illness, Disease and the Body, 3rd edition (2012), Fat (2012), Risk, 2nd edition (2013) and The Social Worlds of the Unborn (2013). She is currently working on projects concerning new digital media technologies in medicine and public health and how these are configuring concepts of the body, health and illness, healthcare and health promotion, as well as on her new book Digital Sociology, under contract by Routledge.Deborah reviewed the various ways in which sociology has approached the critical analysis of fat, both as a dietary substance and as a component of human bodies. While they are comparatively few in number, sociological analyses of dietary fat have addressed the historical, philosophical and socio-cultural dimensions of this substance: how it has changed from being positioned as a nourishing and even a luxurious component of one's diet to a foodstuff that is now associated with both decadence and disgust. The far more extensive literature comprised of critical analyses of obesity discourse and fat embodiment has drawn attention to the social, cultural, historical and political dimensions of fat as a bodily attribute, many of which are discussed in her recent book Fat. These include the stigma, discrimination and moral opprobrium that are currently attached to fat bodies, the gendered aspects of representations of fatness, the lived experience of being fat and on the political level, fat activism, biopolitics and the employment of obesity discourse as part of reinforcing concepts of citizenship in neoliberal politics. Deborah's Pinterest images on 'fat' were used to emphasise this focus on 'fat'disgust.

Response from Associate Professor Teresa Davis, Co-Leader Business of Health Research Network

The selling of 'fat as bad' has become a commercially and politically useful tactic. The 'blame fat' (and by extension 'blame the consumer' has been a useful way to deflect calls for regulation around sugar in processed foods sold to vulnerable groups of consumers. Blaming fat becomes a way of 'responsiblization' of the individual, constructing the need for 'self regulation' over other forms of managing unhealthy obesity.

A lively discussion around resistance to the stigmatization of fat, ensued with references to several 'fat pride' support groups such as the Fat acceptance movement, 'FATshionistas' and what such resistance mean tin terms of health and well being.