2 Jun 2020 12:00pm - 2:00pm Online session


This session has moved online. Open to all. For further information please email Karolina Kuberska

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Meeting ID: 832 0638 2206
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Tanisha Spratt (University of Oxford)
'Understanding ‘Fat Shaming’ in a Neoliberal Era: Exploring Reactions to CRUK’s Anti-Obesity Campaign'

Brigit McWade (Lancaster University)
'Stop ‘Sucking off the Stigma’: Refusing Mental Health Anti-Stigma Campaigns'



Dr Tanisha Spratt (University of Oxford)

Understanding ‘Fat Shaming’ in a Neoliberal Era: Exploring Reactions to CRUK’s Anti-Obesity Campaign

In July 2019 Cancer Research UK (CRUK) launched a campaign to highlight the association between obesity and cancer. This campaign received a great deal of criticism from fat activists who perceived it as an attempt to “fat shame” individuals with obesity. The primary contention between these two groups centred around whether or not obesity should be deemed a medical issue. Whilst CRUK clearly view it as such, fat activists often conceptualise excess weight as a bodily characteristic that distinguishes them from those with “normative” (i.e. slender) bodies. Viewing their excess weight as a form of natural diversity in a similar way to eye colour, hair colour, height etc., those who hold this position often reject the term “obesity” because they see it as an attempt to “medicalise” a “non-medical” issue. This paper will explore this contention by highlighting the need to address the concerns of those who adhere to the political model of obesity within medical narratives that consider obesity a “global epidemic.” Engaging with neoliberal conceptualisations of the “ideal citizen,” this paper will explore the relationship between “personal responsibility” and recent austerity cuts in order to show how low-income families and recipients of state benefits are often stigmatised for being obese despite having limited control over the social, economic and environmental factors that drive obesity. It will further show how this culture of blame is shaped by concerns about the financial stability of national programmes like the NHS that many believe should exclusively cater to the needs of “deserving” citizens.

Dr Brigit McWade (Lancaster University)

Stop ‘Sucking off the Stigma’: Refusing Mental Health Anti-Stigma Campaigns

This paper examines the cultural and political economy of stigma and anti-stigma in mental health. Mental health anti-stigma campaigns present stigma as something produced by myths circulated within media-cultures; myths which can be dissipated through the dissemination of “the facts” of mental illness and personal testimonies of those with lived experience. Rather than focus on the individual stories of “the stigmatized” as Goffman’s work has inspired many to do, I will instead explore how this anti-stigma industry determine the limits of what might be said about mental health and by whom, in effect depoliticizing distress and capitalizing on the further disenfranchisement of Mad-identified people.

An event organised by Health, Medicine and Agency Research Network
Administrative assistance: networks@crassh.cam.ac.uk

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