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Fatness and the Maternal Body: Women's Experiences of Corporeality and the Shaping of Social Policy

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Volume 22

Fertility, Reproduction and Sexuality: Social and Cultural Perspectives

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Fatness and the Maternal Body

Women's Experiences of Corporeality and the Shaping of Social Policy

Edited by Maya Unnithan-Kumar and Soraya Tremayne

246 pages, 13 figs, 15 tables, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-122-4 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (July 2011)

eISBN 978-0-85745-123-1 eBook

Hb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


“…a timely addition to the growing canon of obesity scholarship within anthropology…While any anthropological examination of body weight is likely to incorporate the themes of sex/gender and kinship, tackling these issues head-on makes this collection especially valuable…an impressive collection of different perspectives on, and stories about, obesity and fatness.”  ·  Medische Antropologie

The newest edition (Volume 22) to Berghahn Books outstanding 'Fertility, Reproduction and Sexuality' series, is a 248-page compendium that has been knowledgeably compiled and deftly edited…Informed and informative, [this volume] is a seminal collection of impressively presented scholarship and a highly recommended addition to personal, professional, and academic library reference collections and supplemental reading lists.”  ·  Library Bookwatch

As a volume, this book weaves together many concerns and debates…[It] makes a valuable and fresh contribution to scholarship across a variety of fields and is accessible. The introduction would be particularly suitable as a concise overview to third year undergraduate and MSc students from a wide variety of disciplines. Overall the book would make a strong addition to both undergraduate and postgraduate reading lists.”  ·  Sociology of Health & Illness


Obesity is a rising global health problem. On the one hand a clearly defined medical condition, it is at the same time a corporeal state embedded in the social and cultural perception of fatness, body shape and size. Focusing specifically on the maternal body, contributors to the volume examine how the language and notions of obesity connect with, or stand apart from, wider societal values and moralities to do with the body, fatness, reproduction and what is considered ‘natural’. A focus on fatness in the context of human reproduction and motherhood offers instructive insights into the global circulation and authority of biomedical facts on fatness (as ‘risky’ anti-fit, for example). As with other social and cultural studies critical of health policy discourse, this volume challenges the spontaneous connection being made in scientific and popular understanding between fatness and ill health.

Maya Unnithan-Kumar is Reader in Social Anthropology at the University of Sussex. She is currently leading an Economic and Social Research Council (UK)–funded research project on state-NGO relations as defined by their engagement with human rights discourse in the fields of sexual, maternal and reproductive health in India.

Soraya Tremayne is a social anthropologist and the Founding Director of the Fertility and Reproduction Studies Group and a Research Associate at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford. For the past twelve years, she has carried out research on reproduction and sexuality in Iran. Her current research focuses on assisted reproductive technologies and Islam in Iran.

Subject: Medical Anthropology Gender Studies and Sexuality


List of Figures
List of Tables

Chapter 1. Introduction: Corporeality and Reproduction: Understanding Fatness through the Diverse Experiences of Motherhood, Consumption and Social Regulation
Maya Unnithan-Kumar

Chapter 2. The Traffic in ‘Nature’: Maternal Bodies and Obesity
Megan Warin, Vivienne Moore and Michael Davies

Chapter 3. Fat and Fertility, Mobility and Slaves: Long-term Perspectives on Tuareg Obesity and Reproduction
Sara Randall

Chapter 4. Women of Great Weight: Fatness, Reproduction and Gender Dynamics in Tuareg Society
Saskia Walentowitz

Chapter 5. Childbearing, Breast-feeding and Body Weight in Tanzania: Three Bodies, Three Individuals, Many Different Interrelations among the Wagogo (Central Tanzania)
Mara Mabilia

Chapter 6. The ‘Obesity Cycle’: The Impact of Maternal Obesity on the Exogenous and Endogenous Causes of Obesity in Offspring in the United Kingdom
Nicola Heslehurst

Chapter 7. Culture, Diet and the Maternal Body: Ghanaian Women’s Perspectives on Food, Fat and Childbearing
Ama de-Graft Aikins

Chapter 8. Unhealthy, Unwealthy, Unwise: Social Policy and Nutritional Education in a Disadvantaged Community in Ireland
Shauna Clarke

Chapter 9. The Maharaja Mac: Changing Dietary Patterns in India
Devi Sridhar

Chapter 10. Is there a Relation between Fatness and Reproductive Health? A Study on Body Mass Index and Reproductive Health of Indian Women
Aravinda Meera Guntupalli

Chapter 11. Reproducing Inequalities: Theories and Ethics in Dietetics
Lucy Aphramor and Jacqui Gingras

Notes on Contributors

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