Consider the photograph here of the half-length statue of Shakespeare on his funerary memorial in Trinity Church, Stratford, with the image of Shakespeare in popular culture, and especially Shakespeare as a young artist and lover in the 1998 blockbuster Shakespeare in Love.  Consider how unrecognizable the Shakespeare in the monument is, as Shakespeare, because Shakespeare is assumed to be youthful and thin. Nineteenth-century responses to the monument help us trace the development of a particularly toxic modern understanding of the fat and thin body, in which the fat body is seen as slow, slow-witted, and eventually prematurely aged, and the thin body is seen as vibrant, quick-witted, and young. As Shakespeare cannot be imagined as “fat,”, so too a fat…

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“Why do they always look at me like that?” That’s what I think when I consistently see the same white men and women on the running trail in my neighborhood. My boyfriend and I recently moved to this neighborhood, motivated in part by the vast amount of running trails in the area. Granted, I see more people using the trails to walk their dogs in the morning, but I don’t mind the dogs. What I do mind are the constantly surveilling eyes that watch me as I jog over the bridge.  I cannot help but think that their gaze is a response to both my being black and running on the trail. My blackness may be disrupting their racially homogenous…

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There is perhaps no more universally heart-rending image than that of a hungry child. Depictions of issues as disparate as urban poverty, environmental catastrophe, and an inadequate education system invoke the hungry child as a shorthand for injustice and absolute wrongness. Such images suggest that hunger is a universal experience – all people hunger the same, and hunger itself is a sensation that everyone can equally imagine and experience. In this post, I want to historicize and contextualize this idea of the naturalness, simplicity, and the apoliticality of hunger. While “feeding the hungry” might seem like a viable moral imperative, this approach toward resolving hunger is itself a product of a specific political and economic moment; conceptualizing hunger as apolitical,…

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Prevailing voices in the public and health sciences state that lower class people are much more likely to become “overweight” compared to their “middle” and “high class” counterparts. In this sense, the so-called “obesity epidemic” becomes inseparable from the discussion of class, and the equation remains clear: “the poor are fat and the fat are poor.” In order to explain the link between class and body weight, people generally refer to two assumptions about poor people: they have less access to healthy food and they don’t know which food is healthy. Over the last decades, studies that explore the social determinants of health and illness in populations (“social-epidemiology”) have particularly discussed this relation between food and fatness as a class…

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While the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program in which low-income men constructed trails and lodges in parks, built public roads, and otherwise improved the American environment, lasted just under a decade, it has remained an incredibly popular agency in American consciousness. Organizations push its memory, the National Park Service celebrates its past, and Americans write a surprising number of editorials about how we should revive the program. This is an unusual amount of love for a social welfare program, most of which are loathed and stigmatized in the U.S. Why are so many welfare programs villainized, even when they include a work component, while the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) invokes such pride and nostalgia? There are several reasons…

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