|Title||Fat, Queer, Dead: ‘Obesity’ and the Death Drive|
That contemporary discourses of the ‘obesity epidemic’ are engaged in the construction of fatness as pathological, immoral and socially undesirable has been the subject much recent critical inquiry within Fat Studies. This paper contributes to that literature with a re-reading of obesity discourse via what queer theorist Lee Edelman (2004) has called ‘reproductive futurism’. Edelman contends that queerness figures the social order's death drive, and is thus abjected in order to assure the reproduction of that social order. This paper argues that, like the queer, fatness is increasingly being figured as anti-social and as that which must be eliminated in the name of a viable future.
Framing obesity in this way makes possible an analysis of the presumed ‘threat’ of obesity, frequently referred to, but seldom unpacked, in the existing literature. A comparative analysis of the UK government's Change 4 Life (2009) public health campaign and nineteenth century theories of degeneracy is used to illustrate the cultural anxieties about immorality, disease, civilization and death that undergird both discourses. This analysis suggests the centrality of rationality and self-control, understood as moral, to the reproduction of the social order.
Furthermore, reading the ‘obesity epidemic’ as couched in the logic of reproductive futurism opens up potential alternative approaches to fat politics. In the light of Samantha Murray's (2008) critique of the liberal humanist underpinnings of fat activist discourse, this paper considers whether Edelman's advocacy of ‘future-negating’ for queers, offers a productive trajectory for fat politics.
|Journal citation||2 (1), pp. 1-17|
|Publisher||Edinburgh University Press|
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI)||https://doi.org/10.3366/soma.2012.0035|
|Web address (URL)||http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/soma.2012.0035|
|Published||01 Feb 2012|