Mind the Gap

“…. every classificatory system of medicine since Hippocrates has included the category of ‘morbid obesity,’ either as symptom or as etiology. In each of these systems the boundary also exists between the acceptably plump and the overtly obese. It is drawn at every stage of Western history. Yet it is also always different, with different contours, different borders, and different meanings given to both sides of the divide. Michel Foucault notes that the goal of all social control is to maintain the ‘permanent measure of a gap in relation to an inaccessible norm and the asymptotic movement that strives to meet in infinity’ (Discipline and Punish, 1977, p. 227). This is the permanent gap that society imagines between healthy plumpness and morbid obesity. The gap, however, is what is real. These two categories are constantly shifting in relationship to one another. At certain points pleasing plumpness becomes morbid obesity, and a new body standard of plump is created. The gap is maintained.”

Gilman, Sander L. Fat Boys: A Slim BookLincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. Print. p. 11.

Gilman’s passage points to the issue of boundaries, in the determinations that we make in the meanings between different bodies and different sizes. I’ve been trying to keep the idea of these kind of “mobile boundaries” (or “blurred lines,” if you will) in mind throughout the dissertation process. This past post on Amy Erdman Farrell’s Fat Shame connects to these points.


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