Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Life in this Fat Body: Exploring the multiple realities of fat embodiment

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posted on 2021-11-15, 10:24 authored by Hancock, Tayla

This thesis is an anthropological enquiry of the fat body. It explores the narratives of eleven individuals in New Zealand and Australia who are fat, or who have experienced life as a fat person. In the midst of an ‘obesity epidemic’, biomedical narratives dominate public understandings of ‘obesity’ and present fat individuals as a picture of poor-health, as lazy and morally irresponsible. This discourse dominates current discussions of ‘obesity’ to the extent that narratives engaging with lived experiences of the fat body are frequently excluded from public discussion and popular thought. Using Annemarie Mol’s (2002) claim that reality is multiple, this thesis challenges this dominant discourse through a combination of personal narrative and photography. Participants were asked to take photographs and provide images that represent their experience of fat. Using their stories, I argue that understanding fat bodies is best explored through participants’ narratives of the multiple bodies they occupy and experience. My findings are used to challenge current representations of fat bodies in western society as I explore the multiple ways in which fat bodies are experienced, felt and negotiated. This thesis reveals that there are diverse types of bodies that emerge in different ethnographic moments, settings and relationships and these are political, social and embodied.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Cultural Anthropology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Arts

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Trundle, Catherine; Bonisch-Brednich, Brigitte