1st Edition

Feeding Desire Fatness, Beauty and Sexuality Among a Saharan People

By Rebecca Popenoe Copyright 2004
    256 Pages
    by Routledge

    248 Pages
    by Routledge

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    While the Western world adheres to a beauty ideal that says women can never be too thin, the semi-nomadic Moors of the Sahara desert have for centuries cherished a feminine ideal of extreme fatness. Voluptuous immobility is thought to beautify girls' bodies, hasten the onset of puberty, heighten their sexuality and ripen them for marriage. From the time of the loss of their first milk teeth, girls are directed to eat huge bowls of milk and porridge in one of the world's few examples of active female fattening. Based on fieldwork in an Arab village in Niger, Feeding Desire analyses the meanings of women's fatness as constituted by desire, kinship, concepts of health, Islam, and the crucial social need to manage sexuality. By demonstrating how a particular beauty ideal can only be understood within wider social structures and cultural logics, the book also implicitly provides a new way of thinking about the ideal of slimness in late Western capitalism. Offering a reminder that an estimated eighty per cent of the world's societies prefer plump women, this gracefully written book is both a fascinating exploration of the nature of bodily ideals and a highly readable ethnography of a Saharan people.

    Part 1: Entering the Field Chapter 1 Coming into the Azawagh Chapter 2 Getting Fat Part 2 Self-Representations Chapter 3 In the Name of Allah, Most Benevolent, Ever Merciful Chapter 4 Ties of Blood, Ties of Milk, Ties of Marriage Chapter 5 "The Men Bring Us What We Will Eat" Part 3 Veiled Logics Chapter 6 The Interior Spaces of Social Life: Bodies of Men, Bodies of Women Chapter 7 The Exterior Spaces of Social Life: Desert, Village, Tent Part 4 Negotiating Life's Challenges Chapter 8 Well-being and Illness Chapter 9 Beauty, Sex and Desire


    Rebecca Popenoe is Visiting Lecturer in Anthropology at Uppsala University in Sweden. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and has taught at the University of Virginia and Middlebury College in the U.S. as well as at Stockholm and Linköping Universities in Sweden.

    'Popenoe illuminates her theoretical arguments with compelling examples. She has a gift for vivid descriptions, not only of people, but also of the material landscapes in which the Azawagh are socially placed ... It is the kind of  book that we need to teach right now.' - The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute