Fateful fatness

By Rosa Mas Giralt

Reports about the pandemic of obesity affecting Western countries are never far from the news agenda. Urgent cries for action aiming at saving us from our expanding waistlines and saving our children from our sedentary influences dominate the public advice agenda. The latest addition to this collection of shock actions came from the US, where Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, tried to enforce a healthy living class for those students with a BMI of more than 30 before they could graduate. However, it seems that the university has had to relax its approach and taking the class has become recommended instead of compulsory. In another recent article for The Guardian, Rachel Williams has looked at this issue in British universities as it seems that we (the student collective) are not very keen on exercise or taking care of what we eat and we need to be helped in ‘disciplining’ our ways.

In a recent piece for Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Beth Evans (2009) provides an insightful view into critical geographies of obesity. She “critically analyse[s] the production of obesity as a ‘threat to the future of the nation’ through considering obesity as a biopolitical problem – which simultaneously addresses the individual body and the ‘population’ (Foucault 1997) – and as a form of pre-emptive politics – attempting to control the future through action in the present (Anderson 2008a 2008b)” (Evans, 2009:21). Her analysis provides a complex picture of the dynamics behind the current anti-obesity policy in the UK and helps us consider what lies behind public perceptions of fateful fatness.

Read Ed Pilkington’s article “Success at fat-fighting Lincoln University hinges on BMI test” The Guardian, 4th December 2009

Read Rachel Williams’ article “Fat is a student issue” The Guardian, 15th December 2009

Read Bethan Evans (2009) “Anticipating fatness: childhood, affect and the pre-emptive ‘war on obesity'”. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 35(1): 21-38.

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