Cookies

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Research & business

View Profile

Publication details

Colls, R. (2007). Materialising bodily matter: Intra-action and the embodiment of 'Fat'. Geoforum 38(2): 353-365.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

In this article I describe the processes through which fat bodies are materialised. I contextualise the article within the recent call to rematerialise social and cultural geography and the wider medical, social and political discrimination that obese and overweight bodies experience in contemporary Western society. Critical engagements with normative accounts of fat bodies are becoming increasingly prevalent within the size acceptance movement and this article utilises one such account of fatness in order to demonstrate the possibility of alternative materialisations of fat. Matter is firstly contextualised in relation to Judith Butler’s (1993) [Butler, J., 1993. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. Routledge, London] work on bodily matter and materialisation, and subsequent critical engagements with her work that challenge the implicit passivity she gives to matter. An account of matter as ‘intra-action’ [Barad, K., 2001. Re(con)figuring space, time and matter. In: Dekoven, M. (Ed.), Feminist Locations: Global and Local, Theory and Practice. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey and London, pp. 75–109; Barad, K., 2003. Posthumanist performativity: toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28(3), 801–831] is then utilised which does not presuppose the prior existence of independent entities whereby matter is simply ‘acted upon’. Instead it focuses upon the ‘activity of matter’ and its participation in the process of its own materialisation. Using personal descriptions of fat bodies written by the American poet and novelist Susan Stinson and British writer Shelley Bovey, I identify two particular materialisations of fat bodies that emerge from figuring fat as intra-active. Firstly, specific fat body topographies are identified through which fat has its own internal momentums, a distinct spatial form on the body and can exist ambiguously both inside and outside the body. Secondly, fat is conceptualised in relation to its force as illustrated by the capacities fat bodies have to ‘do’ certain activities and to inhabit subject positions which normative representational accounts of fat bodies exclude. In concluding, I comment upon the potential of an intra-active account of matter for a rematerialised social and cultural geography and for geographical accounts of fat bodies.

References

Anderson, B., 2004. Time-stilled space-slowed: how boredom matters. Geoforum 35, 739–754. Anderson, B., Tolia-Kelly, D., 2004. Matter(s) in social and cultural geography. Geoforum 35 (6), 669–974. Atwood, M., 1969. The Edible Woman. Virago, London. Barad, K., 1998. Getting real: technoscientific practices and the materialisation of reality. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 10 (2), 87–128. Barad, K., 2001. Re(con)figuring space, time and matter. In: Dekoven, M. (Ed.), Feminist Locations: Global and Local, Theory and Practice. Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick, New Jersey and London, pp. 75–109. Barad, K., 2003. Posthumanist performativity: toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28 (3), 801–831. Bennett, J., 2004. The force of things: steps towards an ecology of matter. Political Theory 32 (3), 347–372. Bordo, S., 1993. Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture and the Body. University of California Press, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London. Bovey, S., 1989. The Forbidden Body: Being Fat is Not a Sin. Pandora Press, London. Bovey, S., 1999. A life in a day. In: Cole, C., Windrush, H. (Eds.), The Female Odyssey: Visions for the 21st Century. The Women’s Press, London, pp. 48–53. Bovey, S., 2002. What Have You Got to Lose? the Great Weight Debate and How to Diet Successfully. The Women’s Press, London. Bovey, S., 2006. Homepage. Retrieved December 14th 2005. Available from: . Bray, G., 2003. Contemporary Diagnosis and Management of Obesity. Handbooks in Health Care Company, Newtown, PA. Brownell, K., 1995. Definition and Classification of Obesity. In: Brownell, K. et al. (Eds.), Eating Disorders and Obesity: A Comprehensive Handbook. The Guildford Press, New York, pp. 386–390. Butler, J., 1990. Gender Trouble: Feminism and The Subversion of Identity. Routledge, London. Butler, J., 1993. Bodies that Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. Routledge, London. Campos, P., 2005. The Diet Myth: Why America’s Obsession With Weight Is Hazardous To Your Health. Gotham Books, New York. Cheah, P., 1996. Mattering. Diacritics 26, 108–139. Colls, R., 2004. Looking alright, feeling alright: emotions, sizing and the geographies of women’s experiences of clothing consumption. Social & Cultural Geography 5, 583–596. Colls, R., 2006. Outsize/outside: bodily bignesses and the emotional experiences of British women shopping for clothes. Gender, Place and Culture 13 (5), 529–545. Cooper, C., 1998. Fat and Proud: The Politics of Size. The Women’s Press, London. Dewsbury, J-D.C., Thrift, N.J., 2000. Dead geographies and how to make them live. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18, 411– 432. Evans Braziel, J., Le Besco, K., 2001. Editors’ Introduction. In: Evans Braziel, J., LeBesco, K. (Eds.), Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, pp. 1–15. Fraser, M., 2002. What is the matter of feminist criticism? Economy and Society 31 (4), 606–625. Gard, M., Wright, J., 2005. The Obesity Epidemic: ScienceMorality and Ideology. Routledge, London. Gregson, N., Rose, G., 2000. Taking Butler elsewhere: performativities, spatialities and subjectivities. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18, 433–452. Grosz, E., 1990. The Body of Signification. In: Fletcher, J., Benjamin, A. (Eds.), Abjection, Melancholia and Love: The Work of Julia Kristeva. Routledge, London, pp. 80–103. Grosz, E., 1994. Volatile Bodies: Towards A Corporeal Feminism. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indiana. Grosz, E., 1999. Darwin and feminism: preliminary investigations for a possible alliance. Australian Feminist Studies 14 (29), 31–45. Grosz, E., 2005. Time Travels: Feminism, Nature, Power. Allen and Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW. Hekman, Susan, 1998. Material bodies. In: Welton, D. (Ed.), Body and Flesh: A Philosophical Reader. Blackwell, Malden, Mass & Oxford, pp. 61–70. Irigaray, L., 1993. An Ethics of Sexual Difference [Trans. Carolyn Burke and Gillian C. Gill]. Cornell University, Ithaca. Jackson, P., 2000. Rematerializing social and cultural geography. Social and Cultural Geography 1, 9–14. Jacobs, J., Nash, C., 2003. Too little, too much: cultural feminist geographies. Gender, Place and Culture 10 (3), 265–279. Kearns, M., 2003. Geographies that matter – the rhetorical deployment of physicality. Social and Cultural Geography 4 (2), 139–152. Kent, L., 2001. Fighting abjection: representing fat women. In: Evans Braziel, J., LeBesco, K. (Eds.), Bodies Out of Bounds: Fatness and Transgression. University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, pp. 130–152. Kerin, J., 1999. The matter at hand: butler, ontology and the natural sciences. Australian Feminist Studies 14 (29), 91–104. Kirby, V., 1997. Telling Flesh: The Substance of the Corporeal. Routledge, London. Kirby, V., 2002. When all that is solid melts into language: Judith Butler and the question of matter. International Journal of Sexuality and Gender Studies 7 (4), 265–280. Kristeva, J., 1982. Powers of Horror [Trans. by Leon Roudiez]. Columbia University Press, New York. Latham, A., McCormack, D., 2004. Moving cities: rethinking the materialities of urban geographies. Progress in Human Geography 28 (6), 701–714. LeBesco, K., 2004. Revolting Bodies: The Struggle to Redefine Fat Identity. University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst and Boston. Longhurst, R., 1995. The body and geography. Gender, Place and Culture 2 (1), 97–105. Longhurst, R., 1997. Disembodied geographies. Progress in Human Geography 21, 486–501. Longhurst, R., 2000. Corporeographies of pregnancy: ‘bikini babes. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 18, 453–472. Longhurst, R., 2001. Bodies: Exploring Fluid Boundaries. Routledge, London. Longhurst, R., 2005a. Making space for fat bodies. Progress in Human Geography 29 (3), 247–259. Longhurst, R., 2005b. Man breasts: spaces of sexual difference, fluidity and abjection. In: Van Hoven, B., Ho¨rschelmann, K. (Eds.), Spaces of Masculinity. Routledge, London and New York, pp. 165–178. McDowell, L., 1995. Body work: heterosexual gender performances in city workplaces. In: Bell, D., Valentine, G. (Eds.), Mapping Desire. Routledge, London, pp. 75–95. Mitchell, A., 2005. Pissed Off. In: Kulick, D., Meneley, A. (Eds.), Fat: An Anthropology of an Obsession. Penguin, New York, pp. 211–225. Monaghan, L., 2005a. Discussion piece: a critical take on the obesity debate. Social Theory & Health 3 (4), 302–314. Monaghan, L., 2005b. Big handsome men, bears and others: virtual constructions of ‘fat male embodiment’. Body and Society 11 (2), 81– 111. Moss, P., Dyck, I., 2003. Embodying social geography. In: Anderson, K., Domosh, M., Pile, S., Thrift, N. (Eds.), Handbook of Cultural Geography. Sage, London, pp. 58–73. Murray, S., 2004. Locating aesthetics: sexing the fat woman. Social Semiotics 14 (3), 237–248. Nelson, L., 1999. Bodies (and spaces) do matter: the limits of performativity. Gender, Place and Culture 6 (4), 331–354. Popenoe, R., 2004. Feeding Desire: FatnessBeauty and Sexuality Among a Saharan People. Routledge, London. Roberts, C., 1999. Thinking biological materialities. Australian Feminist Studies 14 (29), 131–139. Rose, G., 2003. A body of questions. In: Pryke, M., Rose, G., Whatmore, S. (Eds.), Using Social Theory. Sage, London, pp. 47–64. Ross, B., 2005. Fat or fiction: weighing the obesity epidemic. In: Gard, M., Wright, J. (Eds.), The Obesity Epidemic: Science, Morality and Ideology. Routledge, London, pp. 86–106. Rowley, A., 1996. On viewing three paintings by Jenny Saville: rethinking a feminist practice of painting. In: Pollock, G. (Ed.), Generations and Geographies in the Visual Arts: Feminist Readings. Routledge, London, pp. 88–107. Salih, S., 2002. Judith Butler. Routledge, London. Sobal, J., 1999. The size acceptance movement and the social construction of body weight. In: Sobal, J., Maurer, D. (Eds.), Weighty Issues: Fatness and Thinness as Social Problems. Aldine de Gruyter, New York, pp. 231–250. Stinson, S., 1993. Belly Songs. In: Celebration of Fat Women. Orogeny Press. Stinson, S., 2000. Seeing Bellies. In: Bovey, S. (Ed.), Sizeable Reflections: Big Women Living Full Lives. The Women’s Press, London. Stinson, S., 2006. Homepage. Retrieved December 14th 2005. Available from: .