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Heft 5 - Jahrgang 3 (2015)
Fat Agency
Herausgegeben von Nina Mackert / Jürgen Martschukat

Das gesamte Heft einsehen

Nina Mackert / Jürgen Martschukat: Introduction: Fat Agency.
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The introduction lays the ground for this issue’s critical inquiry into fat and agency. Agency is a crucial yet ambivalent tool for historical, cultural and social analysis. It denotes a combination of self-reliance, self-will and self-respect among historical actors. On the one hand, it is a symbol for the reappropriation of alienated and seemingly overpowering discourses, social relations, and institutions. On the other hand, it often serves as an idealized counterpoint to representations of fat bodies. Therefore, agency is not necessarily and exclusively tied to oppositional acts of resistance or withdrawal, but it is also a premise of the social and political organization of liberal societies: exerting agency performs our compliance with its demands.


Nina Mackert: Writing the History of Fat Agency.
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The article takes up current scholarship on fat history and outlines three aspects of fat history as a critical “history of the present.” Firstly, it points to a crucial shift in the politics of fat at the end of the 19th century. In the course of fat becoming a biopolitical vanishing point, fighting fat became an intersectional terrain for individuals to perform their ability to conduct themselves successfully. Secondly, it stresses the fruitfulness of dis/ability studies for a critique of fatphobia’s reiteration of an unattainable ideal of able, healthy, and productive bodies. Thirdly, the author critically discusses problems and promises of writing histories of agency and suggests an engagement with the agency of matter.

Anna Mollow / Robert McRuer: Fattening Austerity.
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This essay presents “fattening austerity” as a new conceptual framework that will enable a collective resistance to austerity politics and fat oppression. Austerity and fatphobia have not, to our knowledge, been analyzed in tandem. But the discourses that uphold both punitive austerity measures and the pathologization of fat people’s bodies are deeply imbricated. Austerity and anti-fat stigma each invoke a language of crisis to authorize social practices that inflict hunger and bodily injury upon people who are fat and/or poor. In addition, anti-‘obesity’ rhetoric and pro-austerity arguments each utilize the neoliberal values of “personal responsibility” and corporeal “choice” to further marginalize people who are poor, fat, or both. We argue that it is incumbent upon the political Left—which thus far has been remiss in challenging the anti-fat prejudice that often animates its own movements—to make fat justice a central part of its critique of austerity.


Christopher E. Forth: On Fat and Fattening: Agency, Materiality and Animality in the History of Corpulence.
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This essay argues that modern perceptions of the agency of fat people have been inflected by older ways of thinking about fat and fattening. This claim rests on two basic points. Firstly, the potentially encumbering materiality of fat has long been cited as preventing movement in ways that frustrate agency. Secondly, fat has implications for agency by virtue of the power relationships implied in the act of fattening, which has been repeatedly framed in the West with reference to animal consumption. Discourses of fat and fattening are thus saturated with allegations of failed agency, whether by citing the confining materiality of fat itself or by associating the fattened person with abject animality. After exploring these claims with reference to select examples from classical antiquity, the essay presents surveys how similar ideas mobilized weight-loss discourses from the nineteenth century through the 1930s, by which time most of our current anti-fat thinking had been firmly entrenched.

Joyce L. Huff: The Narrating Stomach: Appetite, Authority and Agency in Sydney Whiting's 1853 Memoirs of a Stomach.
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Sydney Whiting’s 1853 Memoirs of a Stomach provides a vehicle for investigating the body’s potential to resist human control and influence human activities. Such work is important to fat studies because a fear of such bodily agency underlies current Western fatphobia. Memoirs is modeled on eighteenth-century it-narratives, in which fictional nonhuman narrators recount their circulation through human systems of exchange. By granting the stomach authority over an erring “self,” Whiting’s embodied manifestation of the it-narrative reverses the usual hierarchy of mind over matter. However, the comic nature of Whiting’s tale simultaneously undermines the authority it assigns to the stomach. This ultimately destabilizes meaning in the text, opening up space for new ways of thinking about bodies and agency that extend beyond Cartesian dualism.

Amy E. Farrell: “When I Was Growing Up My Mother Cooked Dinner Every Single Day”: Fat Stigma and the Significance of Motherblame in Contemporary United States.
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Contemporary narratives about fatness focus incessantly on the mother, yet recent fat studies literature has only slightly addressed this phenomenon of motherblame and fat stigma. By extending the research that I touched upon in "Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture" (New York University Press, 2011), this essay explores the roots of motherblaming in early 20th century psychology—particularly in the work of Hilde Bruch and Phillip Wylie—and the connections to more recent narratives in US film, literature and popular culture that link mothers to the horrific spectacle of the fat child and fat mothers to the destruction of their families and communities.

Nora Kreuzenbeck: Nothing to Lose: Fat Acceptance-Strategien und Agency als Widerstand und Unterwerfung in den USA von der Mitte der 1960er bis in die frühen 1980er Jahre.
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Since the 1960s, Fat Acceptance gained momentum in the United States. In the context of the civil rights struggles and the protest movements of the era, more or less formally organized groups got together, aiming to end discriminatory practices against people who were classified as overweight. Fat Acceptance activists protested against the idea that fat was to be understood as a signifier for moral weakness and self-inflicted disease. By disrupting the equation of fat as disease, they sought to present fat people as individuals who were indeed capable of acting self responsibly and in tune with the demands of liberal societies. Fat people came to be understood as a group with a unique identity. At the same time they were presented as having agency. Agency in this case has two meanings. First, fat individuals performed resistance against an oppressive system. Second, by disconnecting fat from disease and moral failure, activist presented themselves as capable liberal subjects.

Offener Teil

Ulrike Thoms: Hunger – ein Bedürfnis zwischen Politik, Physiologie und persönlicher Erfahrung (Deutschland, 19. und 20. Jahrhundert).
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Hunger has never been a stable term. How people have understood and defined it, changed over time, along with a changing understanding of the body, its functions, physiological mechanisms and its needs. The paper follows these changes in a long-term multiperspective approach for the last two centuries. It argues, that hunger first was understood as a dangerous feeling, that eventually developed political power. To define hunger by physiology can thus be meant and understood as a means to articulate bodily needs and to point to the necessity of their satisfaction. Nonetheless, these definitions of hunger are not neutral or objective, moreover they may not be used for certain groups of people or under certain economic or social conditions, they may even be counterproductive, as they reduce empathy with the hungry.