Neoliberal Bodies and the Gendered Fat Body: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Neoliberal Bodies and the Gendered Fat Body

1st Edition

By Hannele Harjunen


118 pages

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pub: 2016-08-09
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In recent decades the rise of the so-called "global obesity epidemic" has led to fatness and fat bodies being debated incessantly in popular, professional, and academic arenas. Fatness and fat bodies are shamed and demonised, and the public monitoring, surveillance and outright policing by the media, health professionals, and the general public are pervasive and socially accepted.

In Neoliberal Bodies and the Gendered Fat Body, Hannele Harjunen claims that neoliberal economic policy and rationale are enmeshed with conceptions of body, gender, and health in a profound way in contemporary western culture. She explores the relationships between fatness, health, and neoliberal discourse and the role of economic policy in the construction of the (gendered) fat body, and examines how neoliberal discourses join patriarchal and biomedical constructions of the fat female body. In neoliberal culture the fat body is not just the unhealthy body one finds in medical discourse, but also the body that is costly, unproductive and inefficient, failing in the crucial task of self-management.

With an emphasis on how neoliberal governmentality, in its many forms, affects the fat body and contributes to its vilification, this book is essential reading for scholars of feminist thought, sociology, cultural studies and social theory with interests in the body, gender and the effects of neoliberal discourse on social attitudes.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction and Personal Prologue

1.1 Neoliberal Society, Neoliberal Bodies?

1.2 The Fat Body in Neoliberal Culture

1.3 Healthy, Acceptable, and Moral Bodies… and Their Opposites

1.4 Feminist Body Studies, Fatness, and Feminist Fat Studies

1.5 The Fat Body as the Target of Biopower

1.6 Methodology and Data

1.7 Outline of the Book

2. Neoliberalism, Governmentality, and the Body

2.1 From Neoliberalism to Neoliberal Governmentality

2.2 Governmentality and Neoliberal Governmentality

2.3 Neoliberal Consumer Culture and the Body as a ‘Project’

2.4 The Disembodied Social Analysis of the Neoliberal Economy

2.5 The Body as an Intersection of Fat, Class, and Gender

3. The Biopolitics of Weight and the Obesity Epidemic

3.1 The Biopolitics of Weight

3.2 Biomedicine and Normal Body Weight

3.3 Body Weight and Health

3.4 The ‘Obesity Epidemic Discourse’ …Epidemic

3.5 Moral Panic and the Metaphorical Illness of Obesity

4. The Economisation of Health and the Fat Body

4.1 Health and the Public Welfare State

4.2 Neoliberal Health Care

4.3 Health Inequalities

4.4 The Obesity Epidemic Discourse as a Form of Neoliberal Governmentality

4.5 Deservingness, Morals, Costs and Investment

5. Healthism and Individual Responsibility

5.1 The Ubiquity of Healthism and its Moral Implications

5.2 Fatness as a Self-inflicted Problem

5.3 Wellness and Women - Buying Normative Femininity?

6. Money for your Fat! Moral Credit for Disappearing Fat

6.1 The Literacy in Fat Campaign

6.2 Moralising Prejudice in a Campaign

6.3 The Commodification of Fat

7. Postfeminism, Fatness, and Female Body Norms

7.1 From Sexual Objects to Empowered Agents?

7.2 How to Build a Neoliberal Girl

7.3 Neoliberal Surveillance and Control

7.4 Femininity for Sale

7.5 Free Choice and the Thin Privilege

8. Conclusion

8.1 The Preferred Body of Neoliberalism

8.2 Some Final Words


About the Author

Hannele Harjunen is Senior Lecturer in Gender Studies in the Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Gender and Society

The social sciences continue to be transformed and enriched by analysis which takes gender, and the ways in which gender and society interact, to be of vital, defining importance. This series is new and broadly based, and will publish high-level contributions from across the disciplines.

Learn more…

Gender, Bodies and Transformation

Gender, Bodies and Transformation
This series explores the intersection of two key themes in relation to scholarship on bodies: gender and transformation. Bodies are gendered via biology, culture, medicine and society, such that gender, so deeply and intimately connected to identity, is a crucial part of any thorough analysis of the body. At the same time, bodies are - and have always been - sites of transformation, whether through 'natural' processes such as pregnancy, illness and ageing, or the more eye-catching, 'unnatural' transformations of cosmetic surgery, violence, extreme bodybuilding or dieting, cross-species transplantation, elective amputation or tattooing. Interdisciplinary in scope and welcoming work from a range of approaches, including cultural and media studies, sociology, gender studies, feminist theory, phenomenology, queer studies and ethnography, Gender, Bodies and Transformation publishes scholarly examinations of contemporary cultural changes that are relevant to both gender and the transformation of bodies, whether in single bodies or between bodies.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Gender Studies