Encountering fat others, embodying the thin self: Emotional orientations to fatness and the materialization of feminine subjectivities

Abstract

Using the cultural phenomenology of Sara Ahmed, we expand upon biopolitical analyses of obesity discourse by interrogating how the contours of normative feminine embodiment are formed through entangled relations between dominant obesity discourse and everyday sensuous encounters. We examine qualitative interviews with young women and suggest that fat encounters are situated within a “cultural politics of emotion”, where “feelings about” and “feelings for” fat others reflect emotional orientations that imbue the boundaries demarcating the normatively thin feminine subject with a sensuous materiality. We conclude by suggesting that Ahmed’s cultural phenomenological approach offers novel and nuanced insights into the materialization of embodied feminine subjectivities by centring the sensuous, felt and emotional encounters between sameness and difference.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for providing support for this research. We would also like to thank the reviewers whose thoughtful and considered commentary made this paper better.

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Correspondence to Moss E. Norman.

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Norman, M.E., Rail, G. Encountering fat others, embodying the thin self: Emotional orientations to fatness and the materialization of feminine subjectivities. Subjectivity 9, 271–289 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41286-016-0005-7

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Keywords

  • emotion
  • embodiment
  • fatness
  • feminine subjectivities