'I'd kill anyone who tried to take my band away' : obesity surgery, critical fat politics and the 'problem' of patient demand

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Throsby, Karen (2012)

Obesity surgery is commonly figured within Fat Studies as the violent mutilation of the fat body, and as the unjustifiable apotheosis of the war on obesity. However, while calls to stop obesity surgery are politically appealing, they are unable to account for positive accounts of surgery, or the rising demand for it, outside of narratives of victimhood or false consciousness. This paper asks how a critical perspective can account for those surgery patients who, regardless of any problems that they or others may have encountered in the process, remain positive advocates for surgery. Drawing on interviews with obesity surgery patients and observations in an obesity surgery clinic, this paper argues that obesity surgery is usefully conceptualised not simply as acquiescence to the anti-fat imperative, or its brutal implementation, but as a complex interaction of interests, desire and power relations which is inseparable from deeply problematic anti-obesity ideologies, but which is not confined to them. I conclude that the small resistances that are evident in the everyday experience of obesity surgery signal one way in which it may be possible to identify new, unexpected spaces for critique and contestation, and to open up novel and inclusive avenues for critical thought. This opens up the possibility of taking patient demand for, and endorsement of, obesity surgery seriously as part of a critical fat politics, rather than as anomalous to it.
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