Accepted Paper:

Obesity surgery, promissory technologies and technoscientific subjectivities  

Author:

Karen Throsby (University of Leeds)

Paper short abstract:

The dominant representations of obesity surgery mean that patients are not easily legible as technoscientific subjects. This paper focuses on the everyday experiences of patients, showing how post-surgical subjectivities are constructed and the technologies are enacted and transformed.

Paper long abstract:

Obesity surgery is an intervention of last resort that forcibly restricts the amount of food the fat body can consume and / or absorb with the goal of significant and sustained weight loss. In the dominant representations, obesity surgery is conventionally figured as a weight loss 'tool', rendering surgery as fixed and knowable and the fat body as unreliable and liable to failure. These figurations confine our understanding of obesity surgery and its effects to moralising narratives of (non-)compliance. Consequently, while surgery and its associated devices (bands, staples etc) are easily conceptualised in technoscientific terms, its patients are much less straightforwardly understood as technoscientific subjects who are actively constituting, appropriating and transforming those technologies through their mundane embodiment of them.

Drawing on interviews with obesity surgery patients, ethnographic data from an obesity surgery clinic, and medical, policy and popular literature, this paper argues that obesity surgery is best understood as a 'promissory technology'. It is replete both with the hopeful promise of present resolutions to problematized fat bodies, and with the anticipation of future, less 'fleshy', genetic or pharmaceutical technologies that will render surgery obsolete. This paper focuses on the everyday management and experience of the surgically altered fat body as a means of exploring these conflicting promises. This illuminates the ways in which post-surgical, technoscientific subjectivities are constructed, resisted and maintained, and how the technologies of surgical weight loss themselves are enacted, transformed and remade in the process.

Panel T100
Feminist Technoscience Studies in Unexpected Places: (Intra)Activism and Social Justice