Fat-Talk Nation: The Human Costs of America's War on Fat

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Product Details
Cornell University Press
Publish Date
6.3 X 1.0 X 9.3 inches | 1.2 pounds

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About the Author
Susan Greenhalgh is Professor of Anthropology at Harvard University. She is the author of Under the Medical Gaze: Facts and Fictions of Chronic Pain, Cultivating Global Citizens: Population in the Rise of China, and Just One Child: Science and Policy in Deng's China. She is coauthor of Governing China's Population: From Leninist to Neoliberal Biopolitics.

"At a time when men, women, and children are taught to hate their bodies, Susan Greenhalgh pushes back against the so-called 'War on Obesity'--I would call her a 'war resister.' She argues convincingly that the 'obesity epidemic' is not about health but about shame and stigma, a national anxiety that traumatizes most people, especially youth. This book promises to become a classic in its field."

--Esther D. Rothblum, San Diego State University, coeditor of The Fat Studies Reader

"Relying on evocative stories and insightful analysis, Fat-Talk Nation is a powerful and absorbing expose of the unintended consequences of America's war on fat, making a convincing argument that a war on obesity is not just unwarranted and ineffective, but damaging--to people of all sizes."

--Linda Bacon, author of Health at Every Size and Body Respect

"Fat-Talk Nation is an extremely rich book: well-written, well-resarched, provocative. The set of terms that Susan Greenhalgh introduces--biocitizen, biomyth, fat talk, biopedagogy, bioabuse, bioscopy, and fat subjectivity--are quite useful. I can imagine them becoming central terms in the fields of body studies, health studies, anthropology, women's and gender studies, and, of course, fat studies. The essays by young people are a gold mine, and the fact that Greenhalgh listens closely to these stories makes her work absolutely stand out."

--Amy Farrell, Ann and John Curley Chair of Liberal Arts and Professor of American Studies and Women's and Gender Studies, Dickinson College, author of Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture

"As Greenhalgh asks in the final pages, 'if one comment can destroy a child's life, what should we do now?' (p. 284) She offers some concrete and worthy initiatives that include dispelling biomyths, discouraging fat-talk, and banning fat-bullying (pp. 286-287). These are important suggestions that have the potential to change behaviours."


"Her [Greenhalgh's] argument against the fat industry, presented in a Foucauldian manner, is extremely strong, particularly in the context of existing patriarchal hegemony."


"In Fat-Talk Nation, Greenhalgh argues that the war on obesity is harmful to people of all sizes. Effectively appealing to logos, pathos, and ethos, she presents a range of negative effects (i.e. the human costs) the war is having on young people in the United States through weaving empirical evidence with autoethnographic essays."

--Sociology of Health & Illness

"Greenhalgh focuses her keen ethnographic eye on the personal narratives and the local moral worlds her students shared with her about their bodies and their struggles with fat. In a down-to-earth, accessible style, this book systematically details the many costs and unintended consequences of America's 'War on Obesity.'... Greenhalgh's smart, accessible text can be read by multiple audiences. Her formulation of fat talk, biobullying, and biomyths, etc. gives us an easy, clear vocabulary that can be used dynamically to problematize the war on fat in the public sphere and in public health."

--Anthropological Quarterly

"Fat-Talk Nation clearly underscores the ways in which America's war on obesity has really become a war on fat people.... Greenhalgh provides a vivid account of the intense physical and emotional suffering experienced by young people raised in an aggressively fat-phobic society, making her book a noteworthy contribution to the literature."

--American Ethnologist journal