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The Fat Pedagogy Reader

Challenging Weight-Based Oppression Through Critical Education

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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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Introduction

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Erin Cameron and Constance Russell

Why The Fat Pedagogy Reader?

Over the past decade, concerns about a global “obesity epidemic” have flourished (World Health Organization, 1998), appearing in media (Saguy & Almeling, 2008), popular culture (Kwan & Graves, 2013), and in speeches by health leaders who have made claims such as “obesity” being “more threatening than weapons of mass destruction” (Carmona, 2003, para. 66). Public health messages around physical activity, fitness, and nutrition permeate society and validate fat-phobic behaviors and practices. This “obesity” discourse dominates and serves to reproduce a framework of thinking, talking, and action in which thinness is privileged and in which a “size matters” message fuels narratives about fat people’s irresponsibility and lack of willpower (see Gard & Wright, 2005; Lupton, 2013; Wann, 2009). Consider as well the photos of “headless fatties” that typically accompany news articles. In her analysis of this phenomenon, Charlotte Cooper (2007) notes how “the body becomes symbolic: we are there but we have no voice, not even a mouth in a head, no brain, no thoughts or opinions. Instead we are reduced and dehumanized as symbols of cultural fear” (para. 3). Such depictions, alongside images of people Photoshopped to unrealistic proportions, serve to inform society about whose bodies count as “normal.” As Susan Bordo (1993) states, “This is perpetual pedagogy, how to interpret your body 101. These images are teaching us how to see … [and] training our perceptions in what’s a defect and what is normal...

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