Revolting Bodies?: The Struggle to Redefine Fat Identity

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Univ of Massachusetts Press, 2004 - Health & Fitness - 162 pages
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Viewed as both unhealthy and unattractive, fat people are widely represented in popular culture and in interpersonal interactions as revolting -- as agents of abhorrence and disgust. Yet if we think about "revolting" in a different way, Kathleen LeBesco argues, we can recognize fatness as not simply an aesthetic state or a medical condition, but a political one. If we think of revolting in terms of overthrowing authority, rebelling, protesting, and rejecting, then corpulence carries a whole new weight as a subversive cultural practice that calls into question received notions about health, beauty, and nature.

Revolting Bodies examines a number of sites of struggle over the cultural meaning of fatness. The book is grounded in scholarship on identity politics, the social construction of beauty, and the subversion of hegemonic medical ideas about the dangers of fatness. It explains how the redefinition of fat identities has been undertaken by people who challenge conventional understandings of nature, health, and beauty and, in so doing, alter their individual and collective relationships to power.

LeBesco explores how the bearer of a fat body is marked as a failed citizen, inasmuch as her powers as a worker, shopper, and sexually "desirable" subject are called into question. At the same time, she highlights fat fashion, relations among fat, queer, and disability politics and activism, and online communities as opportunities for transforming these pejorative stereotypes of fatness. Her discussion of the long-term ramifications of denying bodily agency -- in effect, letting biological determinism run rampant -- has implications not only for our understanding of fatness but also for future political practice.


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The Discourse of Revolt
Organization and Embodiment Politicizing and Historicizing Fatness
Antidotes to Medical Discourse about Fatness
Citizen Profane Consumerism Class Race and Body
Revolution on a Rack Fatness Fashion and Commodification
Framing Fatness Popular Representations of Obesity as Disability
The Queerness of Fat
The Resignification of Fat in Cyberspace
Fat Politics and the Will to Innocence

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Page 4 - If the rules governing signification not only restrict, but enable the assertion of alternative domains of cultural intelligibility, ie, new possibilities for gender that contest the rigid codes of hierarchical binarisms, then it is only within the practices of repetitive signifying that a subversion of identity becomes possible.

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About the author (2004)

Kathleen LeBesco is assistant professor of communication arts at Marymount Manhattan College.

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