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Fat Planet

Obesity, Culture, and Symbolic Body Capital

Edited by Eileen P. Anderson-Fye and Alexandra Brewis

The average size of human bodies all over the world has been steadily rising over recent decades. The total count of people clinically labeled “obese” is now at least three times what it was in 1980. Fat Planet represents a collaborative effort to consider at a global scale what fat stigma is and what it does to people. Making use of an array of social science perspectives applied in multiple settings, the authors examine the interplay of weight, wealth, history, culture, and meaning to fat and its social rejection. They explore the notion of symbolic body capital—the power of non-fat bodies to do what people need or want. In so doing, they illustrate the complex and quickly shifting dynamics in thinking about fat—often considered personal yet powerfully influenced by and influential upon the broader world in which we live.

2017. 272 pp., 5 figures, 5 tables, notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Contributors: Eileen Anderson-Fye, Anne Becker, Arundhati Bharati, Alexandra Brewis, Monica Casper, Yunzhu Chen, Alexander Edmonds, Maureen Floriano, Daniel Hruschka, Caryl James, Rebecca Lester, Stephanie McClure, Ashley Mears, Nicole Taylor, Sarah Trainer

Download an excerpt.

“With Fat Planet: Obesity, Culture, and Symbolic Body Capital, editors Eileen P. Anderson-Fye and Alexandra Brewis offer chapters that are global in focus, well-timed with respect to developing health issues, and advance anthropological scholarship related to body capital theory generally and obesity specifically. . . . The volume’s inclusion of non-US contexts and understudied groups is highly welcome, as are the rigorous theoretical and methodological approaches used. This volume will be of great interest to obesity researchers and those employing body capital theory.”
Amy W. Farnbach Pearson, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Journal of Anthropological Research, Summer 2019

“This book complicates Western body-management wisdom by exploring cross-cultural data from multiple fieldsites in Fiji, Jamaica, Nepal, the United Arab Emirates, and communities throughout the United States and Latin America. Treating the U.S. Surgeon General’s declaration of a ‘war on fat’ and the World Health Organization’s characterization of obesity as an ‘epidemic’ as points of departure, the authors unsettle bio-pedagogical discourses about the perils of eating badly. They aim, among other things, to show how metrics like the Body Mass Index . . . mask crucial determinants of health and social well-being that are independent of girth and overeating, and are sometimes even congruent with them.”
Eugenia Tsao, University of Toronto, PoLAR Online, May 2019

Fat Planet . . . serves as a useful theoretical approach for public health and clinical practitioners, as well as those concerned about overweight and obesity. Stigmatization related to weight has profound, although negotiated, effects, and can intersect with other practices of marginalization to further alienate individuals and cohorts. Understanding the production of this stigma is critical to shaping public health and clinical discourse about health.”
K. Liu, Desert Oasis Healthcare, Choice magazine, October 2017

List of Illustrations


Introduction – Making Sense of the New Global Body Norms
Alexandra Brewis

Chapter One – From Thin to Fat and Back Again: A Dual Process Model of the Big Body Mass Reversal
Daniel J. Hruschka

Chapter Two – Managing Body Capital in the Fields of Labor, Sex, and Health
Alexander Edmonds and Ashley Mears

Chapter Three – Fat and Too Fat: Risk and Protection for Obesity Stigma in Three Countries
Eileen P. Anderson-Fye, Stephanie M. McClure, Maureen Floriano, Arundhati Bharati, Yunzhu Chen, and Caryl James

Chapter Four – Excess Gains and Losses: Maternal Obesity, Infant Mortality, and the Biopolitics of Blame
Monica J. Casper

Chapter Five – Symbolic Body Capital of an “Other” Kind: African American Females as a Bracketed Subunit in Female Body Valuation
Stephanie M. McClure

Chapter Six – Fat Is a Linguistic Issue: Discursive Negotiation of Power, Identity, and the Gendered Body among Youth
Nicole L. Taylor

Chapter Seven – Body Size, Social Standing, and Weight Management: The View from Fiji
Anne E. Becker

Chapter Eight – Glocalizing Beauty: Weight and Body Image in the New Middle East
Sarah Trainer

Conclusion – Fat Matters: Capital, Markets, and Morality
Rebecca J. Lester and Eileen P. Anderson-Fye


There are no working papers for this book at the present time.