BODY NORMATIVITY AND THE HYPER(IN)VISIBILITY OF ABJECT BODIES Living with Oppression in the Body Liberation Movement

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för kulturvetenskaper

Abstract: In feminist studies that attempt to theorize embodiment, fat bodies have largely been ignored and excluded from research even though scientific knowledge on weight-based stigma and discrimination shows the importance of studying fatphobia as a system of oppression. Hence, this thesis provides an analysis on the lived experience of fat bodies in relation to body normativity and visibility politics. Additionally, it builds bridges to other abject bodies marginalized within gender studies, such as trans people and people with disabilities, to support shared struggles for radical social justice. Concerning the theoretical framework, the concept of intersectionality and theorization on body and beauty norms as well as abjection and ugliness are put forward. In addition, an Foucauldian understanding of power and visibility and Gailey’s concept of hyper(in)visibility are employed. The methodology of the thesis is based on Haraway’s concept of situated knowledge, complemented by Spivak’s postcolonial approach and Baril’s composite model of disability. The empirical material consists of a range of secondary sources extracted from the body liberation movement such as Instagram and blog posts, activist book chapters and YouTube videos. Using Braun and Clarke’s method of reflexive thematic analysis, four main themes with respective subthemes are generated and discussed: 1) knowledge production on power structures, 2) mental health is health, 3) fat resistance and 4) solidarity and allyship. Lastly, the concepts of ambivalence, ordinariness and ugliness are argued for as supplementary strategies within fat politics. In summary, struggling against the hyper(in)visibility of abject bodies is concluded to be a collective task and for it to succeed, people need to work on themselves individually, in community and across coalitions.

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