Call for Papers: Visual Fat Studies

Attention Fattitude Fans: Call for Papers – Visual Fat Studies

FKW // Zeitschrift für Geschlechterforschung und visuelle Kultur

No. 62, Spring 2017, Submission deadline: October 20, 2016

In 2030, almost half of all Europeans will be fat — according to the striking yet simplistic forecast issued by the WHO at the 2015 European Congress on Obesity in Prague. For some time, the message has spread in the Global North that obesity, adiposity, overweight, etc. threaten to deform the healthy (i.e., slim) nation’s body like a contagious virus. Government programs, nutrition experts, television broadcasts, new technologies (weight loss apps), etc. hasten to suggest concrete solutions to a (seemingly) pressing issue: Michelle Obama’s Let’s move campaign, for instance, encourages more physical exercise and healthier eating habits. The German Ministry of Health has launched celebrity-endorsed campaigns like in-form.de to motivate people to change their lifestyle and movement habits. At the same time, the food industry continues to produce and market nutritionally imbalanced foods. Healthy food continues to remain a privilege of the few.

Activists and scientists are protesting increasingly against the discourse produced by politics and society, and spread by diverse media, that obesity be combatted in the name of healthy living. Already since the late 1960s, various groups (e.g., Fat Acceptance Movement, Health at Every Size) have campaigned vociferously against the stigmatizing and patronizing of persons failing to comply with prevailing body norms as unhealthy, unsporty, lazy, etc. Since the mid-noughties, an independent transdisciplinary research direction has emerged under the label of Fat Studies. Challenging normalization, knowledge production systems, the governmental technologies of states, and dominant approaches to body forms and their visibility, Fat Studies builds on the questions and assumptions of feminist and queer studies. Since the 1970s at the very latest, feminist art historians, film and media scholars have problematized not only the positions of women within the patriarchal gaze, but also the prevailing ideals of beauty and body-related attributions. Researchers have observed that standardizing body politics, as regards the size, weight, and circumference of human bodies, always coincides with attributions to categories of difference such as gender, ethnicity, race, sexual identity, social background, etc. Most recently, scholars in the fields of gender and queer studies have critically examined especially the current technologies of the self and self-optimization strategies within the context of a neoliberal gender regime (e.g., Paula-Irene Villa 2008; Esther D. Rothblum & Sondra Solovay 2009; Angela McRobbie 2010). The visual, however, has so far received little attention.

The 62nd issue of FKW (Spring 2016) takes up the debates in Fat Studies and those on current beauty systems. From the perspective of gender theory, it focuses on the visual representations and gaps of fat bodies — whose definition overlaps with body norms and standardizations. Contributors are invited to critically explore the images and visual stagings of fat persons in art, the media, and visual culture (e.g., advertising, magazines, social media, etc.). A crucial starting point for the forthcoming issue is the impression that large female bodies are currently perceived as especially provocative and disquietening, as radically upsetting current body norms and the sense of normalcy, and as posing a public threat. Thus, Facebook deletes images of fat women more frequently than those of slim women while online campaigns against such fat shaming have emerged concurrently. On balance, examples of a fat self-confidence are now evident (Beth Ditto, Melissa McCarthy, etc.).

The 62nd issue of FKW seeks to gather contributions dedicated to the forever gendered representations of fat bodies across visual culture. Critical treatments of the iconographic and governmental traditions that inform such representations are most welcome, especially discussions that illuminate how these representations continue or reshape those traditions within the current gender regime. Contributors may also wish to analyze how far fat bodies, i.e., their specific absences, support neoliberal discourses of slimness and intersect with other exclusion mechanisms and body discourses (e.g., via skin colors) — indeed precisely where such discourses and mechanisms at first seem to contribute to diversifying the bodies on display. Other issues and topics of interest include where and how standardizing beauty systems are critically investigated and thwarted. Thus, in which contexts and cultures (e.g., subcultures) are other images of corporeality established without, however, provoking new or other notions of deviant bodies? So far, the large majority of publications in Fat Studies have come from the USA and Canada. But whether these findings and insights can simply be transferred to other regions and societies, i.e., whether discourses of beauty are global and/or migrate, is a vast field calling for more detailed study. We welcome contributions that analyze and critically debate current and historical discourses on fat bodies from queer and feminist perspectives.

Visual Fat Studies is the 62nd issue of the peer-reviewed FKW // Zeitschrift für Geschlechterforschung und visuelle Kultur, which has been published online since 2013. Suggested topics are welcome by October 20, 2016. Please send a half- or full-page abstract (contributions in English are also welcome) to the issue editors, who will be happy to answer any questions.

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