Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 267–283

The Tipping of the Big Stone—And Life itself. Obesity, Moral Work and Responsive Selves Over Time

Original Paper


Why is “everything I know is the right thing to do a million miles removed from what I do in reality?” This question posed by Rita, my main interlocutor and friend in a fieldwork that started in 2001–2003 and was taken up again in 2014–2015, opens up an exploration of moral work and moral selves in the context of the obesity epidemic and weight loss processes. I address these questions through the notion of “moral laboratories” taking up Mattingly’s argument that moral cultivation over time cannot be disconnected from a notion of self. Mattingly has consistently argued for a biographical and narrative self, which is processual and created in community. Along these lines, and by recourse to the German philosopher Bernhard Waldenfels’ phenomenology, I will propose the notion of a responsive self. The responsive self highlights the eventness of ongoing experimentation against the odds and captures equally pathic and agentive dimensions of a self that both persists and is transformed over time.


Obesity Phenomenology Self Moral anthropology Denmark 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KORADanish Institute for Local and Regional Government ResearchCopenhagenDenmark
  2. 2.Center for Cultural Epidemics, EPICENTERAarhus UniversityAarhusDenmark

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