Paper short abstract:
This presentation addresses the relationship between obesity patients and bariatric surgery as a medical technology. In contrast to common critiques of surgery as coercive and objectifying the paper explores how surgical treatment also enables new configurations of agency for patients
Paper long abstract:
Surgical treatment of severe obesity has consistently been shown to produce better sustained weight loss and health improvements than all other weight loss strategies. Weight loss surgeries carried out on a global scale is increasing and gastric bypass surgery is the most frequently performed surgical weight loss procedure in the world. Despite - or because of - this prevalence weight loss surgery also has its critics. Among feminist scholars weight loss surgery has been criticized for compromising patients' subjectivity and autonomy. It is argued that surgery is paradigmatic of the objectified patient, discursively framed as either incapable and dependent on the technologies, or victimized by them.
This paper examines how surgery instantiates new configurations of both agency and objectification. On the basis of insights gained through ethnographic fieldwork, it describes how weight loss surgery patients engage in eating practices and other forms of body management which make possible 'a notion of agency not opposed by objectification, but pursued in objectification' (Cussins 1996). Attention is focused on strategies for how patients cope with post-operative changes and how surgery promotes the establishment of eating practices that allow patients to exercise agency. It thus explores surgical treatment enables co-constitutive entanglements between patient and technologies.
Bodies out of bounds: anthropological approaches to obesity practices