Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Gluttony & Sloth: The Moral Politics of Obesity Discourse

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posted on 2021-11-12, 02:08 authored by Hoverd, William James

In this dissertation, I investigate why 'official obesity discourse' discusses obesity in terms of the sins of gluttony and sloth. This question leads me to survey the moral politics of 'official obesity discourse' in New Zealand between 1997 and 2009. I claim that 'official obesity discourse' is not neutral, and contains various ideological biases. I map the overall range of these ideologies onto a schema of three models of obesity causality. I demonstrate that each of these three models corresponds to certain general policy positions of respective governments; to certain specific health policies (issued by the Ministry of Health); and to certain medical understandings of causality. I further show how each ideological model moralises obesity, in a manner that casts various groups and forces in the role of scapegoat. Finally, I argue that the three models of obesity causality I have identified discriminate against people on low incomes and in certain ethnic groups. My study concludes with a research model which can be used by other researchers to reveal the ideological and moral dimensions of obesity discourse in their own contexts.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Religious Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Art History, Classics and Religious Studies


Radich, Michael; Morris, Paul