19 October 2009

The war on obesity as a conflict map

I've been working on a paper about the war on obesity, using conflict analysis models to explore the war a bit, and thinking about the material reality of this metaphorical war. A little while back I wrote a piece about Foresight and their Obesity Maps, which I think are baloney (yeah, that's the official term). But clearly I am just as obsessed as they are in trying to create graphic interpretations of systems and processes.

Anyway, I wanted to share a conflict map I made and would welcome feedback and suggestions. The difference between my work and theirs is that I am able to recognise that there are critical voices in this system, and I don't base my analysis on the idea that fat people are fat because of problems with energy balance. Oh, and I haven't been funded millions of pounds of public money to produce this, which shows, of course, I did it in Word. I'm DIY all the way, baby!

The map shows people, organisations and entities that I think are central to the war on obesity. I've tried to draw the blobs in sizes relative to how I see their power. The stuff that I find myself critical of, as a fat activist, probably don't think of themselves as a unified entity, hence they are grouped within a dotted line. Other lines and arrows indicate relationships, which may or may not be mutual. Lightning bolts indicate a conflict, and these too are directional. The stuff in the bottom left-hand corner are 'shadow organisations', ie things that influence the war but are not chief antagonists. I've put media there because I think that the war on obesity is not their reason for existing, even though they enflame that war in profound ways. Also, hehehe, my word processor does not recognise Bariatric.

What have I missed? How could it be better laid-out? I tried to keep it to A4 but it's a bit of a crush and some of the edges got lost when I pdf-ed it. Any fat-friendly graphic designers in the house want to have a go at it? Tell me what you think. Also, is this an indication that I'm losing my marbles and should get out more often? Hey, don't cross the road, I'm talking to you!

The war on obesity, a conflict map by Charlotte Cooper, Oct 09 (.pdf, 40kb)

11 comments:

Cheryl Fuller, Ph.D. said...

I think this is terrific. I am doing very preliminary work on a paper for "someday" looking at obesity as a cultural scapegoat -- I am a Jungian psychologist.

Charlotte Cooper said...

Thanks Cheryl. I wonder what a cultural scapegoat map might look like.

SharonC said...

Please bear in mind that I know nothing about the concept of conflict maps. But the idea of mapping out the relationships between the various parties has been a compelling idea to me for a long time, so I like the idea of you producing a map. One thing that I had thought I ought to somehow see in some form on such a map would be the category of "fat people".

Charlotte Cooper said...

Hey Sharon, thanks for this.

I haven't included "Fat People" because I find this category really confusing - irony! For me it's too broad a term. Instead I've used ideological positions here as a way of organising my thoughts. Fat people are certainly included in these categories.

If you were re-drawing the map, how would you include fat people?

bigmovesbabe said...

I agree with you, Charlotte, about "fat people" being too broad a term. It would have to cover so many people with so many different perspectives on their own fat, on the fat of others, on fat as a cultural concept/construct.

I have my own terms for where people's bodies intersect with politics. Some people aren't fat, they're overweight (people who want to lose weight). Not all people who look fat are my allies, in other words. And then there are people like me, both fat AND fatties (fat fat activists). Other people aren't fat at all, but they're still fatties in my book (thin fat activists).

In short ("too late!"), I find your use of ideological positions informative, descriptive, and, for me, intuitive. I don't see that the category of "fat people" can really fit in this map in a meaningful way. Perhaps "fat bodies" as a target or focal point for most of the players, or maybe fat is just the underlying terrain.

Charlotte Cooper said...

Thanks BMB. Your typography of fatness is amazing!

Cheryl Fuller, Ph.D. said...

Charlotte, that's a great question. I'll have to work that one out.

Sassy Femme said...

hey Charlotte! this is so great! i think you've really captured a lot here and it's quite impressive.

the only thing that i'm wondering is how you can represent the overlap between fat activists and those folks who want to lose weight. as you know, there are increasing numbers of less fat fatties who still consider themselves fat activists and then there are all those folks who secretly desire to be less fat but don't say anything about it for fear of being labeled a "bad fat activist." and of course there's all the controversy about whether or not you can be a 'reduced fat' fattie and still be a fat activist. how to capture this? am i missing it here?

Charlotte Cooper said...

Sassy Femme: I tried to include that group by drawing reciprocal arrows from the group who wants to lose weight on the top right to the group who is fed up of dieting on the left, which is then implicated in fat activism. I think there should be a closer relationship though. If I re-draw it, I will show that. Thanks for your input!

Auliya said...

Great map. I'm working on a paper on FA for a subcultures class. I do think however you need to work in Fat or fat related sexuality somehow. FAs, Feeders, that sort of thing.

Cheers!

Charlotte Cooper said...

Auliya, thanks for your brilliant insight. Wow, where would they go? Could they even be placed on this conflict map? Maybe I need to rethink this.