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Feeding Desire: Fatness, Beauty and Sexuality Among a Saharan People [Paperback]

by Rebecca Popenoe
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 13, 2003 0415280966 978-0415280969 0
While the Western world adheres to a beauty ideal that says women can never be too thin, the semi-nomadic Moors of the Sahara desert have for centuries cherished a feminine ideal of extreme fatness. Voluptuous immobility is thought to beautify girls' bodies, hasten the onset of puberty, heighten their sexuality and ripen them for marriage. From the time of the loss of their first milk teeth, girls are directed to eat huge bowls of milk and porridge in one of the world's few examples of active female fattening. Based on fieldwork in an Arab village in Niger, Feeding Desire analyses the meanings of women's fatness as constituted by desire, kinship, concepts of health, Islam, and the crucial social need to manage sexuality. By demonstrating how a particular beauty ideal can only be understood within wider social structures and cultural logics, the book also implicitly provides a new way of thinking about the ideal of slimness in late Western capitalism. Offering a reminder that an estimated eighty per cent of the world's societies prefer plump women, this gracefully written book is both a fascinating exploration of the nature of bodily ideals and a highly readable ethnography of a Saharan people.

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Feeding Desire: Fatness, Beauty and Sexuality Among a Saharan People + Mirror for Humanity: A Concise Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, 8th Edition
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Editorial Reviews

Review

This is a very readable text, at times almost a 'travel' book, with wonderfully written descriptions that will also appeal to a non-academic readership. Although the theoretical and methodological discussions are quite seamlessly integrated, there is no question that this is a scholarly work. Popendoe's research is thorough, her analysis comprehensive, and the result is a most interesting and welcome contribution to social studies of the body.
–The Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

From the Inside Flap

While the Western world adheres to a beauty ideal that says women can never be too thin, the semi-nomadic Moors of the Sahara desert have for centuries cherished a feminine ideal of extreme fatness. Voluptuous immobility is thought to beautify girls' bodies, hasten the onset of puberty, heighten their sexuality and ripen them for marriage. From the time of the loss of their first milk teeth, girls are directed to eat huge bowls of milk and porridge in one of the world's few examples of active female fattening.

Based on fieldwork in an Arab village in Niger, Feeding Desire analyses the meanings of women's fatness as constituted by desire, kinship, concepts of health, Islam, and the crucial social need to manage sexuality. By demonstrating how a particular beauty ideal can only be understood within wider social structures and cultural logics, the book also implicitly provides a new way of thinking about the ideal of slimness in late Western capitalism. Offering a reminder that an estimated eighty per cent of the world's societies prefer plump women, this gracefully written book is both a fascinating exploration of the nature of bodily ideals and a highly readable ethnography of a Saharan people. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (November 13, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415280966
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415280969
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #637,140 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful ethnography October 31, 2004
Format:Hardcover
"Feeding Desire" is a revealing work of ethnography concerning the culture of force-feeding adolescent girls so that they turn into "bountiful" figures, figures considered attractive among the Saharan Moors. I have used it in two different courses on Africa and students have responded very favorably to it. The discussions about the book were the liveliest of the semester. The book is beautifully written with very good photographs. It is an excellent book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uniquely Useful and Thoughtful September 9, 2012
Format:Paperback
I used this book as a reading in a course called "Food, Sex and Gender." I was impressed by the quality of Popenoe's writing and analysis. This is probably the best study we have of a society where young women are still secluded and fed in order to 'fatten them up' for marriage. It challenges readers to rethink their own feelings and aesthetics relating to weight, and like all great ethnographies it leaves us with a deeper sense of mystery about our own culture, at the same time that it gives us a sense of empathy and understanding for another culture that seems, at first, alien and strange. The book is also admirably clear and is mostly free of jargonism or ponderous theorism. For a professor, at a time when it is hard to find good full-length ethnographies that are suited to an undergraduate classroom full of non-anthropology majors, this is very much worth trying. For the general reader, this book will transport you to a place where all of your ideas about health and beauty are turned upside down, and then it will introduce you to some young women and their families who live there, who will seem perfectly normal and likeable. It will change the way you think about fat, gender, and beauty.
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