Shrinking Bodies, Shrinking Futures: Fat Embodiment, Time, and the Health of the Nation

Authors: Annie Elledge*, University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
Topics: Feminist Geographies, Medical and Health Geography
Keywords: feminist geography, fatness, embodiment, health, the future
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 40
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper combines work in fat studies and critical geographies of fatness to think through where we place fat bodies in time and what that does to our understandings of the future. In particular, I want to think through what fatness does to the future and what theoretical openings fatness gives us for thinking about time. In this paper, I observe how neoliberal capitalism and anti-Black racism co-construct fatness as immoral, diseased, lazy, and irresponsible. These constructions of fatness are rooted in temporal concerns about the future “health” of the nation. These anxieties rooted in securing “healthy” national futures work to temporally construct fat bodies as either “ticking time bombs” or as on the way to becoming thin bodies. In this paper, I examine techniques of corporeal disciplining including hyper-surveillance of fat babies and fat mothers, the clinical use of the BMI, and prescriptive weight loss. I argue that these disciplining techniques work to remove fatness from individual bodies, the national body, and from the future. This places fat people in the future while simultaneously denying them the ability to imagine a life there. Rather than allow these temporal traps to restrict fat folks, I suggest we think through how tending to fat embodiment helps us refigure our present in order to reimagine our futures.

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