Accepted Paper:

Big women: images of her radical and intimate nature  
Cathy Greenhalgh (Independent)

Paper short abstract:

The lives of ‘obese’ people are portrayed inaccurately in popular accounts and media images. This paper explores the lived experiences of big women as a radical force with reference to alternative images to the norm.

Paper long abstract:

In this paper I will argue that the lives of 'obese' people are portrayed inaccurately in popular accounts and media images and contend that the lived experiences of big women contain radical force which undermines societal 'norms'. My work encompasses filmmaking, ethnography and teaching. Using interviews I undertook for a book project, Lavish (unpublished, 1993) and a film, Undercurrent (2001) I wish to explore various ways in which the 'big woman' can be seen as a radical expression of embodied experience and practice. Lavish followed women from varied cultural backgrounds, questioning sexuality, clothing, relationships, environment, profession etc. Undercurrent featured myself on a trampoline and underwater for a dance work displayed in galleries. I worked on sets with film crews over a number of years and also conducted ethnography with feature film cinematographers. I am very aware of changing representations and varied subjectivities of big women in cinema and television and how these have become more extreme in the last few years. This panel offers an opportunity to display some alternative thoughts and visions that situate ideas about size and shape, surgery and wellbeing, tailoring and culture in comparison ideas of an obese body as defined by the medical professions. The paper will be presented in an experimental fashion - using textiles, film and stills; a combination of auto-ethnography, sensory anthropology and material culture. I will use material from my own work, cinematic representations and photographs from London organisations such as Planet Big Girl and Big Girl's Paradise.

Panel P066
Bodies out of bounds: anthropological approaches to obesity practices