Call for contributions to FSUK book

Fat Studies in the UK – call for contributions to new book

This book arises out of the success of ‘Fat Studies in the UK: seminar and roundtable’, which was held at The University of York in May 2008. The editors, Corinna Tomrley and Ann Kaloski-Naylor, are seeking contributions from those living or working in the UK around issues to do with Fatness. We are looking for a variety of work from within and without of fat studies and fat activism that takes a body-positive approach, and which challenges prevailing notions of ‘the obesity epidemic’ and the dieting culture. The book is aimed at a wide audience: academics and practitioners in a variety of health-related settings; activists; and students and researchers in a range of disciplines, including social sciences, humanities, and health sciences. We are interested in academic articles, personal relflexive writing (normally 4,000-5,000 words); poetry; cartoons; art work; (black and white only) and other short creative pieces.

Topics might include (but are not exclusive to) the following:

– Fat studies in the UK
– Fat activism in the UK
– The relationship between fat activism and research
– Gendered approaches to fat bodies
– Feminisms and fatness
– Fat activism and queer politics
– Fatness and community
– Contesting ‘obesity’: moral panics, ‘epidemics’ and ‘obesigenic environments’
– Fat and/in the media
– Size acceptance and body/weight diversity
– Popular culture and fat bodies
– Politics of fatness
– Fat identity
– Growing up fat/fatness and children
– Discovering fat activism
– Creativity and fat activism
– Humour, fatness and fun activism

Work should normally not have been published elsewhere, although we may waive this if your work fits in especially well with our book, and you can obtain copyright clearance. Please contact us if you would like to discuss this option. Abstracts of 300 words and a short biography (up to 500 words) to Corinna Tomrley ( by 31st July 2008.

We will contact everyone by 8th August 2008 to let you know if we can use your work.

The publisher is the small independent press Raw Nerve Books –

Draft Timetable:
Finished work submitted by 31st October 2008.
Edited articles returned to authors by 31st December 2008 for any corrections. Corrected articles to be returned to editors by 31st January 2009 and further proofreading/corrections to take place from February – end June 2009. The book will be published in July 2009. (Detailed timetable of publication schedule can be provided on request, and will be sent to you upon acceptance of your work.)

FSUK event Programme

9.30 – 10.00: Coffee & registration

10.00 – 10.20: Corinna Tomrley: Introduction to the day

10.20 – 11.00: Lucy Aphramor, “Ten Things That Scare Me about ‘Obesity’”
11.00 – 11.40: Charlotte Cooper, “Fat Activism 101”

11.40 – 12.00: Break

12.00 – 12.40: Dr. Lee F Monaghan, “Men & the War on Obesity: An                          Overview”
12.40 – 1.20: Dr. Rachel White, “Worse Than Climate Change? New                         Discursive Constructions of fatness in the ‘Obesity                         Epidemic’”

1.20 – 2.20: Lunch

2.20 – 3.00: Dr. Louise Mansfield, “Fit, Fat and Feminine? The                         Stigmatization of Fat Women in Fitness Gyms”
3.00 – 3.40: Dr. Ruth Deery & Dr. Sharon Wray, “Theorising Obesity’:                         Women, Biomedicine and Health”

3.40 – 4.00: Break

4.00 – 5.00: Round table discussion

5.00 – 5.30: Close of day

Speaker information

Lucy Aphramor

Ten Things That Scare Me About ‘Obesity’

In dietetic discourse it is generally accepted that being heavy is strongly associated with a host of conditions – high blood pressure, heart disease, poor joint health, diabetes, some cancers and depression are just a few of the pathologies typically listed. Another common belief is that an adult deemed ‘overweight’ who loses 5 to 10% of their body weight will significantly reduce their health risks. These are among the many statistics and warnings that government, health charities, professional organisations and individual practitioners recycle daily in the battle against ‘obesity’. Yet, as I will demonstrate, these frequently repeated claims are based on very shaky scientific evidence. Moreover, the usual prescription – dieting – is proven in clinical trails to be not only ineffective but also risky. What worries me about the current anti-obesity rhetoric is the harm it does, fuelled as it is by an epidemic of moralising and oppressive ideologies. What worries me even more is that those with the skills and authority to challenge its dubious science are instead complicit in energising the anti-obesity machinery. In this paper I will draw on my own experiences as a UK dietitian to explore ten things that scare me about power and silence in constituting and communicating obesity (sic) knowledge (sic).

About Lucy:

Lucy Aphramor, RD is a senior health promotion specialist in diet and cardiovascular health. She is also a senior research assistant at the Applied Research Centre Health and Lifestyle Interventions, Coventry University. Lucy’s practice and research interests reflect her concern with the unintended side-effects of mainstream anti-obesity policy. As a way forward, she advocates a non-weight centred approach to nutritional intervention and an exploration of power and accountability in the health professions.

Charlotte Cooper

Fat Activism 101

This session considers the history and scope of the fat liberation movement and considers how such activism can enable people to resist problematic dominant paradigms, build community and self-esteem, and find alternative ways of being. In this session I’ll be considering what fat activism is and why people become activists. I’ll present a select chronology of the fat liberation movement over the past 40 years, including case studies of activist organisations such as The Fat Underground, The Chubsters, NAAFA, and others. A resources list is available.

About Charlotte:

I’ve been fat all my life and dieted sporadically from young childhood to young adulthood. By some fortuitous magic I got exposed to fat liberation ideas in the mid-1980s and I have spent subsequent years integrating them into my life, thinking and writing about them, and organising with other people. Some products of this are a 1992 MA dissertation, which became my book, Fat & Proud: the Politics of Size; a girl gang called The Chubsters; some speeches, lectures and workshops; many articles for publications as diverse as FaT GiRL, the zine for fat dykes and their admirers, and the British Medical Journal; and discussions both online and real life too numerous to detail here. You can find out about more on my website

Dr Ruth Deery and Dr Sharon Wray

Theorising ‘obesity’: women, biomedicine & health

In this paper we explore the issue of what it means to be ‘fat’ for women in western (British/North American) society. Contemporary gendered biomedical discourse currently dominates attitudes towards body shapes and sizes (Bordo, 1995). Further, under the rhetoric of ‘health’, a large body size has come to be symbolic of self-indulgence and moral failure. In this paper we argue this may lead women to question both their sense of self and their rights to adequate health care. Our aims are threefold. First, to challenge rigid hegemonic biomedical perspectives on ‘fatness’ and the oppressive unequal power relations they may create. Second, to examine the process by which such perspectives come to be the only legitimate discourse. Third, to consider the impact of pathological medicalised definitions of ‘obesity’ on women’s perceptions of their bodies and experiences of health services.

About Ruth and Sharon:

Ruth Deery is a Reader in Midwifery at the University of Huddersfield. She has a strong clinical practice background and works part-time at Bradford Hospitals NHS Foundation Teaching Trust. Ruth’s research focuses on organisational culture, specifically midwife-led units, birth centres and obstetric culture. Her interest in ‘fatness’ stems from her personal, clinical and academic background, she is especially interested in fat women’s experiences of the NHS. She is committed to working with clinical midwives in order to help them increase their understanding of, and/or change, their work situation particularly the way in which medical scientific knowledge is often used to legitimate certain practices in midwifery. She holds a Health Foundation Award, Leading Practice through Research.

Sharon Wray is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Huddersfield. She is interested in gender, ethnicity, ageing, embodiment and health and developing the concepts of agency and resistance in relation to these. Her interest in fatness and body size stems from research she has undertaken examining women’s experiences of embodiment across ethnic diversity. Sharon works in a clinical department and this has raised her awareness of the inequalities people face due to their body size, when trying to gain access to healthcare. She is committed to challenging current dominant bio-medical and media discourse on body size and the oppressive ideologies and practices that they create.

Dr Louise Mansfield

Fit, Fat and Feminine? The Stigmatization of Fat Women in Fitness Gyms

This paper examines how the exercise discourse aimed at sculpting small, slender tight female physiques serves to develop and maintain a cultural distaste for fat women in fitness gyms. Bodies are central to the production and reproduction of gendered inequality in fitness gyms. Popular images of femininity are mediated though bodily representations of slim, tight muscles and the appearance of health, youth and vitality; images conflated with female beauty. Such images dominate fashion magazines and health and fitness publications, and are commonly reinforced by personnel in the exercise, fitness, health, sport and diet industries. Fitness gyms are characterised by a cultural distaste for fat that is developed and maintained through the social dynamics of the gym environment.

I specifically explore the relevance of the concept of stigmatization for understanding how the appearance and display of fat in fitness cultures is denigrated and devalued, serving to classify fat women as ‘other’ in the gym environment and wider social life. Presenting a critical analysis of Goffman’s notion of stigma for understanding the marginalization of fat, the paper discusses Norbert Elias’s conceptualisation of the socio-dynamics of stigmatization in understanding the relationships between fitness, fatness and femininities. Three interrelated mechanisms are examined in discussing the stigmatization of fat; the monopolization of corporeal power, networks of gossip, and the development of group charisma and group disgrace. It is argued that the exclusion and stigmatization of fat women by established fitness participants is central to the development and maintenance of superior images of slim and muscularly tight females and the inferiority and marginality of fat women in fitness gyms.

About Louise:

I have spent 18 years playing competitive national league and regional netball in which my own body was constantly monitored and measured in terms of many biological parameters, fat % being one of them. Performance sport is, then, one sphere, for me at least, where dominant ideas about corporeality reinforce and anti-fat model. My research over the past ten years has been about women and fitness cultures and my main focus of discussion has surrounded the production and reproduction of ‘the body beautiful’ predominantly defined by slimness/ thinness and muscular tightness. Increasingly I see the performance ethic once confined to achievement sport infiltrating the fitness field. More recently my thoughts have surrounded the ways that the female body beautiful may not singularly defined (women can have muscles and can legitimately be a variety of shapes and sizes) but
nevertheless, one of the defining features of fitness cultures is what I call a cultural distaste for fat. And it is this anti-fat model of fitness that I want to introduce for discussion at the session.

Dr Lee F Monaghan

Men and the War on Obesity: An Overview
This paper presents an overview of Lee Monaghan’s recent book, Men and the War on Obesity: A Sociological Study (2008. London: Routledge). It offers an empirically grounded, theoretically informed and politicised analysis that is critical of the institutional ‘bio attack’ on fatness rather than critical of so-called overweight, obese or fat people.

About Lee:

Dr. Lee F. Monaghan is Senor Lecturer in Sociology, University of Limerick. He has a particular research interest in gendered bodies/embodiment. His recent research on men and weight-related issues questions the social construction of overweight/obesity/fatness as a massive public health crisis. His study draws from sociologically imaginative writing on this public issue and sometimes private trouble, strands of fat activist thinking plus clinically relevant work (Health at Every Size).

Dr Rachel White

Worse Than Climate Change?
New Discursive Constructions of Fatness in the ‘Obesity Epidemic’

The publication of the UK government’s Foresight report ‘Tackling Obesities: Future Choices’ in October 2007 was accompanied by Health Secretary Alan Johnson’s claim that obesity in the UK is a “potential crisis on the scale of climate change.” His widely reported statement is indicative of a turn in the discursive construction of fatness whereby it no longer signifies a mere individual failing, but is constituted as a fundamentally anti-social state. The ubiquity of this construction means we need an effective fat-positive response, but simultaneously makes such a position difficult to articulate.

This paper will present an analysis of recent media coverage of the ‘obesity epidemic’, which is dominated by scientific and medical discourses, but supplemented by other powerful paradigms such as environmental discourses and heteronormative constructions of gender. By identifying the various discourses which have converged to produce contemporary meanings of fatness, fat scholars and activists can better understand how to subvert or counter them progressively. The analysis reveals that the current hegemonic constructions of obesity are contested only within a narrow spectrum, leaving little space for fat-positive arguments which, along with the voices of fat people, are significantly absent.

Adopting a discourse analytic approach to this topic opens up the possibility of theorising the ‘obesity epidemic’ in terms of Judith Butler’s notions of ‘performativity’ and the ‘resignification of discourse’ (1990, 1993, 1997). This framework is particularly appropriate given that, arguably, it has been a resignification of discourses around obesity (the reiteration and consolidation of obesity as disease) which has performatively produced the ‘epidemic’. However, as Butler argues, resignification is never final, therefore this paper will ask whether her framework is can be utilised effectively by fat scholars and activists in formulating and deploying fat-positive responses which destabilise hegemonic constructions of the fat body.

About Rachel:

I am a visiting lecturer in Women’s Studies and Sociology at the University of Westminster and an occasional teacher at the LSE Gender Institute. I completed my PhD research on discursive constructions of gender in the British music press at Goldsmiths College in 2006, and my main research interests, in gender, media, popular culture and women’s participation in subcultures, stem from that research. I guess you could say I ‘came out’ as fat via the queer fat club night Unskinny Bop which itself grew out of the underground feminist/queer music scene over five years ago. I see Fat Studies as a way of theorising the kinds of activities I have been involved in with the Bop and also the fearsome Chubster gang. I am also particularly interested in the mediation of the ‘Global Obesity Epidemic’ and the challenges the fat body presents to heteronormative formations of gender.

Registration for Fat Studies in the UK May 2008

Fat Studies in the UK, Friday 2nd May 2008, University of York

To register for this event, please print off this page and fill in your details. Attach payment and send form and cheque to the address given below.


Organisation: (if any)


Daytime telephone:

If you would like us to send you information by mail rather than email, and/or you require a receipt, please provide an address here:

House/building number:
Street name:



Please make cheques payable to University of York

Send to: Corinna Tomrley, ‘Fat Studies in the UK’, The Centre for Women’s Studies, Grimston House, University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD

I would like a receipt for the registration fee: (please tick this space if this is applicable) ___

If you require a receipt, please fill in an address in the space given above

Do you have any special dietary requirements?
(If yes, please state what)

Do you have any special access needs? If yes, please state:

Contact if you require any further information

Fat and Queer Conference

Fat and Queer: Call for proposals

The New York City radical fat political group “Fat and Queer” [FAQ] is
organizing a one day conference in February entitled ” ‘Fat is
Contagious:’ Political Fat Queer Visibility and Action in the Era of
the ‘Obesity Epidemic .’ ”

The event will occur in Manhattan on Saturday February 23, 2008 at the
University Settlement House, a wheel-chair accessible space in the
Lower East Side at Bowery/Houston.

The keynote address will be given by Marilyn Wann, author of Fat!So?:
Because You Don’t Have to Apologize for Your Size.

Following that, we will have two sessions of workshops, with three
workshops in each session. In the evening we hope to have a cabaret
performance and dance party and are still negotiating space for that

We are currently issuing a call for proposals for workshops on the
topic of political fat queer visibility and action in the era of the
‘obesity epidemic.’

We specifically seek workshop proposals which are action-oriented and
are on the following themes, however all submissions will be considered:

Building Fat/Social Activist networks
Fat studies/fat theory
Weight loss and fat activism
Health at any size
Trans and fat
Fat and sexuality
History of Fat activism
Fat activism within social justice movements and creating solidarity
with other social justice movements
Guerrilla art/action
Childhood obesity
Medical self advocacy

If you are interested in submitting, please send your workshop
proposal to: NYC.FAQ by January 20, 2008.

If you would like to be kept up to date on FAQ events, join our

To help organize the conference and other FAQ events, join our
organizers’ listserve:

More details about the specifics of the conference will be forthcoming.

X-posted all over. Please forward and keep spreading the word!


Seminar Announcement

Fat Studies in the UK – a one day seminar and round table

Centre for Women’s Studies

University of York

Friday 2nd May 2008


(registration 9.30)

Invited Speakers

  • Lucy Aphramor – Coventry University
  • Charlotte Cooper – author ‘Fat and Proud: The Politics of Size’
  • Dr Ruth Deery – University of Hudderfield
  • Dr Louise Mansfield – Canterbury Christ Church University
  • Dr Lee Monaghan – University of Limerick
  • Dr Rachel White – University of Westminster
  • Dr Sharon Wray – University of Huddersfield
  • For information on speakers and details of their presentations go here

    For event programme go here

What is fat studies?

Fat studies is an important and emerging interdisciplinary area of study incorporating scholarship from the humanities and social sciences. Contributors to the discipline confront and critique cultural constraints against notions of fatness and the fat body. As with women’s studies, queer studies and disability studies, there is a political imperative to the work within fat studies, with an aim to create social change around issues of weight oppression, through promoting size acceptance and body diversity.

Why a fat studies seminar?

While there have been seminars and workshops in the UK that have covered fat studies topics, there appears to be an absence of explicit engagement with fat studies as a discipline. Comparatively, several fat studies conferences have taken place in recent years in the States with a lot of the work and focus on the discipline being US led. Here in the UK, there is a great deal of new and exciting work that explores fatness but as a fledgling discipline it sometimes happens in isolation. Whether or not we call our work ‘fat studies’, what that means and whether we name the activisms we do fat activism, size acceptance and/or body diversity can be discussed at this event. There is also an imperative to explore the intersections between activism and academic approaches so as to facilitate a greater connection with community politics and activisms within academia, strengthening body positive goals and achievements. The aim of the seminar is to celebrate, experience and debate this work and for this to be the springboard to other such events both within academia and the wider community.

The objectives of the day are to discuss the discipline of fat studies in a UK context; acknowledge the importance of fat activism and politics and explore the links between activism and research; and to bring together like-minded researchers, activists and supporters of size acceptance in the UK. The programme includes speakers from activist and research perspectives and a round table discussion between all present on activism & academic approaches and methods.


Deadline for submission of abstracts: CLOSED

Notification of speaker acceptance: CLOSED

Deadline for registration: 18th April 2008


Registration for the event is £9

see FSUK registration for form and further details

The deadline for registration is 18th April 2008.

Please let us know if you have any special access needs for the event

Time and Place:

From 9.30 come and have coffee, tea and breakfast snacks whilst you register & pick up your event pack. Cafe Barista, next to the event room, will be open from 8.30 if you’re an early bird.

FSUK takes place in room ATB/057, The Seebohm Rountree Building, Alcuin. Follow the signs from the University Library.

PLEASE NOTE: As the event takes place during term time, it is very unlikely that there will be any available parking places for those driving to the event. We suggest you park at one of the many park and rides and take a bus or cab from there. You will need to get a bus into York city centre and another bus (number 4) from there.

Useful Information

Travel information

Maps of University Campus

Event room location


Fri Nov 9th, seminar at Warwick

The Centre for the Study of Women and Gender at Warwick University are having a series of seminars:

This series of three seminars aims to explore the ways in which the fat body is treated, both in terms of medicalised attempts to “cure” and in terms of how people behave towards those who are visibly fat.

The first of these is entitled “Measuring Children” and it is on this coming Friday, 9th November 2007.
(more details).