By William Hasty
The world’s heaviest human being lives in the UK – Ipswich to be more specific. He weighs 70 stone and, as of this week, requires highly specialised medical care to keep him alive. His case, the Observer reports, has rekindled the ongoing debate surrounding the apparent “obesity epidemic” that lies in wait not only in the US – ‘the junk food capital of the world’ – but also in the UK. For policy-makers, attempting to mitigate the impending disaster that this trend represents, children are at the centre of the debate – they are, the report insists, “far more likely to grow up into fat adults with all the health problems that extra weight brings if they are fat as children”.
Bethan Evans, in a recent paper entitled Anticipating fatness: childhood, affect and the pre-emptive ‘war on obesity’, questions the “spatiotemporalities of obesity policy in the UK”, focusing particularly on “the role of childhood and children’s bodies within such policy”. In what is an engaging and informative article, Evans, drawing upon the work of Foucault and Massumi, details the emergence of obesity as a biopolitical problem and positions the response of UK policy-makers as a “form of pre-emptive politics”. The paper concludes by arguing for “[C]ritical engagements with the spatiotemporalities of obesity policy”, or “geography risks becoming the discipline associated with the perpetuation of this immensely problematic discourse”. ‘Our fat future’, if we are to adopt the lexicon employed by those treating the subject in both the media and policy, obviously demands attention, and Evans has done much in this paper to indicate the productive ways in which geographers can contribute, and perhaps even steer, this concern.