Pathologizing "fatness": Medical authority and popular culture

Samantha Murray*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Medical narratives surrounding the Western "obesity epidemic" have generated greater fears of "fatness" that have permeated Western collective consciousness, and these anxieties have manifested themselves as a moral panic. The medicalization of fatness via the establishment of the disease of "obesity" has necessarily entailed a combining of medical narratives/imperatives and historico-cultural discursive formations of fatness as a moral failing and as an aesthetic affront. The threat that this epidemic poses is framed by medical discourse not simply as endangering health, but fraying the very (moral) fabric of society. In this article, I argue that all the discourses that circulate around fatness and (re)produce it as a pathology have been subsumed under, and absorbed by, dominant medical narratives. I suggest that a medico-moral discourse has inf(l)ected popular understandings of fatness as an affront to health that gives way to deeper, more fundamental social concerns and anxieties about normalization and normative appearance. Specifically, I examine the constructions of individual responsibility that are evident in medical narratives and discourses about obesity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-21
Number of pages15
JournalSociology of Sport Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2008


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