Wednesday, August 1, 2018
Fat - The Anthropology of Obsession Don Kulick & Ann Meneley, Editors Jeremy P Tarcher / Penguin 2005 $16.95 Fat is a word that's often on the lips as well as on the hips. Thirteen professional anthropologists, and one activist weigh in with a variety of international takes on the topic. Fat means very different things to many it seems, a subject no one is indifferent to. Reviewed is how every year in America billions of dollars are spent on books, programs, pre-packaged diets and fitness clubs. "Lite" foods are marketed to every demographic and contrasted with "food porn" as seen in TV commercials, magazines, on billboards and facebook pages. These authors, often imbedded with their subjects for up to a year, go global with stories of: fattening the young, beautiful brides of Yemen; studying teen girls in Sweden who talk about fat all day, every day and their obsession with how to avoid it; as well as the idealization of larger size in the fairer sex in Niger, Africa. Fat is viewed positively by an Italian heirloom grower and producer of olives and olive oil - some more expensive than champaign. In Hawaii, Spam's history in their diet is featured, describing how it is relished and incorporated into many ethnic dishes. One chapter tells how oversized women (BBWs - big beautiful women) and another chapter on very large, furry men called "bears," are both fetishized on line, in magazines and how they are sought after as partners. Fat activists in Toronto, under their homemade banner - "Pretty, Porky and Pissed Off" - emphasize that "fat comes in more than one size." They stage demonstrations accosting people on the street asking them, "Do you think I'm fat?" and have a street performance dancing in leotards to "Baby Elephant Walk," crushing lots of cakes with their ample backsides as the finale. [Who says the personal isn't political?] Also featured are super-sized rappers. Find out why they are lionized in some sectors the US music world. When it comes to fat the authors demonstrate "one size does not fit all." The academic and writing credentials of each contributor is featured at the end of the book, as well as a joint introduction by the editors who contribute a chapter each to the book.