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Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fat Phobia Spiral-Bound | May 7, 2019

Sabrina Strings

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Winner, 2020 Body and Embodiment Best Publication Award, given by the American Sociological Association

Honorable Mention, 2020 Sociology of Sex and Gender Distinguished Book Award, given by the American Sociological Association

How the female body has been racialized for over two hundred years

There is an obesity epidemic in this country and poor Black women are particularly stigmatized as “diseased” and a burden on the public health care system. This is only the most recent incarnation of the fear of fat Black women, which Sabrina Strings shows took root more than two hundred years ago.

Strings weaves together an eye-opening historical narrative ranging from the Renaissance to the current moment, analyzing important works of art, newspaper and magazine articles, and scientific literature and medical journals—where fat bodies were once praised—showing that fat phobia, as it relates to Black women, did not originate with medical findings, but with the Enlightenment era belief that fatness was evidence of “savagery” and racial inferiority.

The author argues that the contemporary ideal of slenderness is, at its very core, racialized and racist. Indeed, it was not until the early twentieth century, when racialized attitudes against fatness were already entrenched in the culture, that the medical establishment began its crusade against obesity. An important and original work, Fearing the Black Body argues convincingly that fat phobia isn’t about health at all, but rather a means of using the body to validate race, class, and gender prejudice.

Publisher: NYU Press
Original Binding: Trade Paperback
Pages: 296 pages
ISBN-10: 1479886750
Item Weight: 1.1 lbs
Dimensions: 6.0 x 1.19 x 9.0 inches
Customer Reviews: 4 out of 5 stars 1,001 to 10,000 ratings
"Strings seeks to illuminate how our current fat phobia is rooted, specifically, in a fear of black women. [She] persuasively shows that ... the link between fatness, racial otherness and, especially, female blackness, looms prominently in the American cultural imagination." -Times Literary Supplement
Sabrina Strings is Chancellor's Fellow and Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. She was a recipient of the UC Berkeley Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellowship with a joint appointment in the School of Public Health and Department of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.