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The Fat Pedagogy Reader

Challenging Weight-Based Oppression Through Critical Education


Edited By Erin Cameron and Constance Russell

Over the past decade, concerns about a global «obesity epidemic» have flourished. Public health messages around physical activity, fitness, and nutrition permeate society despite significant evidence disputing the «facts» we have come to believe about «obesity». We live in a culture that privileges thinness and enables weight-based oppression, often expressed as fat phobia and fat bullying. New interdisciplinary fields that problematize «obesity» have emerged, including critical obesity studies, critical weight studies, and fat studies. There also is a small but growing literature examining weight-based oppression in educational settings in what has come to be called «fat pedagogy». The very first book of its kind, The Fat Pedagogy Reader brings together an international, interdisciplinary roster of respected authors who share heartfelt stories of oppression, privilege, resistance, and action; fascinating descriptions of empirical research; confessional tales of pedagogical (mis)adventures; and diverse accounts of educational interventions that show promise. Taken together, the authors illuminate both possibilities and pitfalls for fat pedagogy that will be of interest to scholars, educators, and social justice activists. Concluding with a fat pedagogy manifesto, the book lays a solid foundation for this important and exciting new field. This book could be adopted in courses in fat studies, critical weight studies, bodies and embodiment, fat pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, gender and education, critical pedagogy, social justice education, and diversity in education.


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Part One: Storying Fat Pedagogy


Part One Storying Fat Pedagogy One Picking the Bones Ellen S. Abell I am 55 and have a lifetime of experience with the discrimination this book aims to identify and reduce. I am a counselor, life coach, professor of psychology and gender studies, amateur comedian, and survivor of seven years of fat camp. Three years ago, a close friend of mine from fat camp died. She was 51. Of the original gang of six of us who’d been friends since we met at camp, Kim was the fourth to die prematurely. The presumption is she died of “obesity.” When you weigh 450 pounds and they have trouble getting your body out of the house where you lived, they don’t even do an autopsy. Fat is a killer, after all. A month after Kim died, after Andi, Gail, and Tommie all died before her, I elected to have lap band surgery. Weight started to drop, seemingly without trying. At age 52, I was becoming what I’d longed to be for as long as I could remember: thin. This compelling transformation marked the recogni- tion of my dual life—a fat person now living inside of a thin body. One body, two worlds. I want to tell you about my life and what it was like to be the “fat girl,” although rarely was the word “fat” ever used. I was simply “big-boned.” I also want to introduce you to some of my “big-boned” friends who, despite the stereotypes, were beautiful, hard-working,...

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