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Revolting Bodies?

The Struggle to Redefine Fat Identity
A provocative analysis of fatness as a cultural construct

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Viewed as both unhealthy and unattractive, fat people are widely represented in popular culture and in interpersonal interactions as revolting—as agents of abhorrence and disgust. Yet if we think about "revolting" in a different way, Kathleen LeBesco argues, we can recognize fatness as not simply an aesthetic state or a medical condition, but a political one. If we think of revolting in terms of overthrowing authority, rebelling, protesting, and rejecting, then corpulence carries a whole new weight as a subversive cultural practice that calls into question received notions about health, beauty, and nature.

Revolting Bodies examines a number of sites of struggle over the cultural meaning of fatness. The book is grounded in scholarship on identity politics, the social construction of beauty, and the subversion of hegemonic medical ideas about the dangers of fatness. It explains how the redefinition of fat identities has been undertaken by people who challenge conventional understandings of nature, health, and beauty and, in so doing, alter their individual and collective relationships to power.

LeBesco explores how the bearer of a fat body is marked as a failed citizen, inasmuch as her powers as a worker, shopper, and sexually "desirable" subject are called into question. At the same time, she highlights fat fashion, relations among fat, queer, and disability politics and activism, and online communities as opportunities for transforming these pejorative stereotypes of fatness. Her discussion of the long-term ramifications of denying bodily agency—in effect, letting biological determinism run rampant—has implications not only for our understanding of fatness but also for future political practice.

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