11 April 2009

Conference Report: Fat Studies at the PCA - 3

Fat Studies III: Encountering and Coping with Anti-Fat Bias
Chair: Julia McCrossin

Unfortunately, Elena Levy-Navarro was not able to attend this panel and present her paper: Toward a More Liberal Society: The Dangers of Conversion Therapies and Dieting Programs.

From Individual Coping to Collective Action: Stigma Management in an Online Community
Daiane Scaraboto, York University


Daiane's background is in consumer research and marketing, she is interested in consumption as a social phenomenon. She talked about a qualitative research project that uses "netnography," ie, a study of online communities. Daiane presented some definitions of stigma and talked about a social model (my expression, not hers) which shifts stigma management away from individualised responses towards a more collective engagement that seeks social change through new social movements. Fat activism online is an example of this kind of shift, and it features "institutional entrepreneurs" who are developing new institutional practices. Typical themes explored by these entrepreneurs, primarily fat bloggers, include a critical engagement with media representations of fatness, organisations which maintain stigma (eg the diet industry), and the relationship between fat and health. Daiane suggested that clothing could be an area for development within her marketing paradigm.

“And Of Course She was Fat”: The Presentation and Consumption of Mary Seacole’s Body
Alison McMonagle, The George Washington University


Mary Seacole has been a focus for scholarship over recent years, but this generally relates to her ethnicity rather than her fatness. Alison presented her fatness as part of Seacole's complex intersections of several mobile identities, including doctor and innkeeper, and presented ideas around the status positions of these occupations in terms of their classed and fat nature. The discussion included references to the Mammy arche/stereotype and Alison suggested that Seacole, as a loud, fat, biracial woman, provided a useful analytical counterpoint to her contemporary, the very slender and white Florence Nightingale.

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