Title

Sizing Up Miami: A Multilevel Analysis of The Discourses and Politics of Obesity

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Global and Sociocultural Studies

First Advisor's Name

Gail Hollander

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Guillermo Grenier

Third Advisor's Name

Caroline Faria

Fourth Advisor's Name

April Merleaux

Keywords

fat, obesity, body, food, women, ethnography, qualitative

Date of Defense

3-27-2014

Abstract

National media attention sensationalizes the panic of obesity prevalence, placing fat bodies in the spotlight. Scholars employing social and cultural analyses criticize the way negative messages about obesity and fatness are delivered. Few studies directly engage with people of different body sizes asking how their experiences interact with the discourses that frame fat bodies as part of the “epidemic.” The present study is informed by scholarship centered on critical perspectives of health, food and embodiment furthering a critique of the way messages are disseminated by local health and food justice organizations through media campaigns and community programs that heighten fears of fatness. Miami offers a unique lens for a place-based approach to problematize assumptions, politics and discourses about bodies and health. Analysis of interviews with six organization representatives shows an overall emphasis on individually-targeted initiatives that detract from examining structural factors. This phenomenon aligned with mainstream discourse, centering individual choice and responsibility at the heart of the purported problem of obesity. An ethnography of body size, where residents of Miami communities speak to their own perspectives on these organizations and discourses, offers a unique approach showing how messages interact with lived experiences. The narratives of twenty women demonstrate their own concerns and thoughtfulness in making sense of the ubiquitous claims about obesity. My work contributes to critical theoretical perspectives that engage with problems of the body, health, food studies and elements of gender, race and class across numerous disciplines. This multi-disciplinary approach underscores the complexities of embodied experiences of discourses, politics, body size, health and place.

Identifier

FI14040877

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