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Fat: The Anthropology of an Obsession Paperback – January 13, 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This engaging collection of essays by academic anthropologists examines fat as a symbol of aesthetics, social status, economic success and cultural belonging. Many of the pieces look at foreign societies or marginal subcultures that, contrary to the fat-phobic Western norm, view fat as a sign of beauty, health and prosperity. Rebecca Popenoe studies villages in Niger where women try to be as fat as possible, while Kulick and Matti Bunzl explore the world of fat porn. Joan Gross writes about phat rappers whose girth is taken as evidence of masculine potency and financial success, and Julia Harrison writes about the role of Spam in the construction of Native Hawaiian identity. Mary Weismantel probes Andean legends of white fat-sucking vampires—metaphors, she thinks, for the exploitation of Indian communities by the elite. Articles on mainstream Western attitudes toward fat uncover even more strangeness. Fanny Ambjörnsson details the byzantine ways Swedish high school girls talk about fat; Kulick and Thaïs Machado-Borges expose the odd Brazilian enthusiasm for intestinal leakage as proof that fat-dissolving pills are working; and Margaret Wilson asks why Starbucks patrons order their coffee with skim milk—only to dump whipped cream on top. The writers wear their scholarly apparatus lightly and offer a readable, thought-provoking survey of one of the most intimate and complicated issues of contemporary life. Photos.
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About the Author

Don Kulick is Professor of Anthropology at New York University. His published works include Language Shift and Cultural Reproduction (1992), Taboo (1995, with Margaret Willson) and Travesti (1998). He is co-editor of the journals Ethnos and GLQ.

Anne Meneley is the co-editor, with Don Kulick, of "Fat: The Anthropology of an Obsession "(Tarcher Penguin, 2005). She is an associate professor of anthropology at Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Tarcher (January 13, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585423866
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585423866
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #570,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Fat porn? Spam? Starbucks? I will never think of fat the same way again. This book was so much fun to read--it really made anthropology accessible, and helped me look at fat as something completely subjective. I love that fat is beautiful in places around the world. I also love that other places around the world obsess about fat as much as we do. I highly recommend this book and can't wait for Fat II!
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Format: Paperback
This book promises to make you think about fat in lots of new ways and that is exactly what it does. Although this is a book on 'anthropology' it is very easy to read and also a very enjoyable read. It is very intelligently written and is sure to make you aware of issues surrounding fat that you weren't aware of previously.

This book, like Fat Is a Feminist Issue which I also read (finally!) recently, leaves you with lots of food for thought.

The standout essays for me were the first and last ones featured in the book.

Rebecca Popenoe essay on villages in Niger where women try to be as fat as possible was as fascinating as it was disturbing. I think being force fed millet porridge to become as fat as possible in your youth is just as bad if not worse than a society being obsessed with thinness.

The final essay on the activist group Pretty Porky and Pissed Off was funny, and intelligent and fiery ...and made me want to march on the streets and join the group members in throwing peanut butter sandwiches at people. (I agree with the need for advocacy and the sandwich throwing bit just sounded really fun.)

The essay on olive oil was very good as well and made me want to put good quality extra virgin oil on something and eat it, immediately.

The essays are each quite short and the book is short so I don't want to write too much and give too much away to those that are yet to read this book.

I did have one quibble with this book though, and that is in the quality of the nutritional information it gave about fat. I know that this topic is really beyond the scope of this book. I understand that.
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Format: Paperback
Once again, another fun and insightful read. I'm also a big girl myself and the book did what it promised, made me think about my body and the images of the media and how other cultures respond to the idea of fat.
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I very much enjoyed reading this interesting and well researched book. I found lots of new information about FAT that lead me to ask more questions on the topic of FAT. I learned a lot. This is not a boring scholarly book but rather an adventure in learning. FAT is interpreted many different ways. There were angles and perspectives I had never contemplated before. A great read!
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I might not have otherwise read this book were it not assigned reading for my graduate course on the anthropology of food, but I found it to be a fascinating read. After I read the eight assigned essays (out of 14), I continued to read them all and was glad I did. I think the compilation of essays is a very interesting way to present and explore the concept of fat, representing a complex and diverse array of views.

Some of the ways fat is explored is as an aesthetic, as a substance to be guarded or discarded, valued and desired, or abhorred. Most importantly, the essays examine the social, political, psychological, and historical contexts in which "fat" is constructed. I would recommend at least a few of the essays to friends (and have), in particular the essays on olive oil and Starbucks.

While I thought some of the essays might be a little dated (the book was published in 2005 and I read it in 2011) (e.g. the essay titled "Phat"), the book nevertheless presented valuable and intriguing points of view. I think it challenges people to think about fat in new ways.
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This study reflects differing perspectives on fat. I enjoyed reading the comprehensive, informative collection. Taken together, the writings gave me a generous frame within which to observe and consider what is going on in my own country, culture, and unique/personal perspective. Glad I bought it, will pass it on to friends. . .
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