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Re-framing weight-related stigma: From spoiled identity to macro-social structures

Abstract

A burgeoning literature explores the putative problem of ‘excess’ weight or fatness, including the management of spoiled identity. A separate literature re-frames health-related stigma with reference to macro-social structures and logics within globalized capitalism. This paper aims to promote further dialogue on such matters among social theorists of health and critics of the war on obesity. To this end, the paper first outlines Goffman’s influential legacy in ‘the fat field’ before extending Scambler’s ‘jigsaw model’ to weight-related stigma and efforts to reduce it. Informed by critical realist tenets, this sociological model furthers the analysis of stigma as a process entwined with macro-structural relations (e.g. class, command, gender and ethnicity), neoliberal ideology and scapegoating. In conclusion, the paper supports calls for a post-individualistic account of stigma, underscoring the relevance of such thinking when furthering the obesity debate, critical social theory and health.

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Acknowledgments

A version of this paper was presented at The 2nd International Weight Stigma Conference, University of Kent, Canterbury, 24 June 2014. The author has received Economic and Social Research Council funding for research and seminars on fatness/obesity (Grant Numbers RES-000-22-0784 and RES-451-26-0768-A), and a Leverhulme Trust international networking grant on the financial crisis. Thanks are also owed to Ruth Graham, Andrea Bombak, Emma Rich and the anonymous reviewers for commenting on earlier drafts of this paper.

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Correspondence to Lee F. Monaghan.

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Monaghan, L.F. Re-framing weight-related stigma: From spoiled identity to macro-social structures. Soc Theory Health 15, 182–205 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41285-016-0022-1

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Keywords

  • obesity
  • fatness
  • stigma
  • Goffman
  • critical realism