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The Metamorphoses of FatA History of Obesity$
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Georges Vigarello

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231159760

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231159760.001.0001

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Declaring “the Martyr”

Declaring “the Martyr”

(p.174) 19. Declaring “the Martyr”
The Metamorphoses of Fat

Georges Vigarello

, C. Jon Delogu
Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses the changing perceptions about obesity in 1920s. The overweight person was no longer seen as the glutton or the oaf, but the sneaky one who dodges the order to slim down and refuses to work on himself. His flaw is neglect, his intimate inattention a dereliction of duty. His passions attract less notice than his indifference; he is less culpable for getting carried away than for lack of control, the impossibility of self regulating and transforming oneself. Failure took on a new shape, one reinforced by the generalization of treatment and the increased significance of psychology. Narratives of suffering multiplied, just as self-evaluations, self-descriptions, and intimate memoirs in contemporary culture became increasingly common. The prestigious place accorded to the thin doubled the stigmatization of the fat. The obese were not just fat people but people who could change—thus an identity of defeat was stuck to them at a time when working on oneself and adaptability became obligatory criteria of value. Obesity declared a manifest failure to reform oneself.

Keywords:   fat, fat people, obesity, martyr, weight loss, stigma, thinness

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