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Flesh Made Word: The Obese Body as Cultural Matter

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Abstract

Emergent narratives regarding the obese body challenge the received discourse, which posits that body as the materialization of individual moral failings. In this essay, I assess the emergent spiritual dysfunction narrative, which I contend sites the obese body as a field for and agent of the negotiation of contemporary tensions around consumption. To that end, I assess mainstream representations of three women—Oprah Winfrey, Carnie Wilson, and Kirstie Alley—whose ongoing and highly publicized “battles” with obesity have been prominently featured in mainstream media in recent years. I argue that popular discourse around these figures locates the tensions around consumption within the dialectics of individual/community and materialism/spiritualism, navigating those tensions in such as to repair and restore broader, currently precarious neoliberal logics.

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