Fat: such a little word evokes big responses. While ‘fat’ describes the size and shape of bodies, our negative reactions to corpulent bodies also depend on something tangible and tactile; as this book argues, there is more to fat than meets the eye. Fat: A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life offers a historical reflection on how fat has been perceived and imagined in the West since antiquity. Featuring fascinating historical accounts, philosophical, religious and cultural arguments, including discussions of status, gender and race, the book digs deep into the past for the roots of our current notions and prejudices. Three central themes emerge: how we have perceived and imagined obesity over the centuries; how fat as a substance has elicited disgust and how it evokes perceptions of animality; but also how it has been associated with vitality and fertility. By exploring the complex ways in which fat, fatness and fattening have been perceived over time, this book provides rich insights into the stuff our stereotypes are made of.
The popular narrative of "globesity" posits that the adoption of Western diets is intensifying obesity and diabetes in the Global South and that disordered metabolisms are the embodied consequence of globalization and excess. In Metabolic Living Harris Solomon recasts these narratives by examining how people in Mumbai, India, experience the porosity between food, fat, the body, and the city. Solomon contends that obesity and diabetes pose a problem of absorption between body and environment. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Mumbai's home kitchens, metabolic disorder clinics, food companies, markets, and social services, he details the absorption of everything from snack foods and mangoes to insulin, stress, and pollutants. As these substances pass between the city and the body and blur the two domains, the onset and treatment of metabolic illness raise questions about who has the power to decide what goes into bodies and when food means life. Evoking metabolism as a condition of contemporary urban life and a vital political analytic, Solomon illuminates the lived predicaments of obesity and diabetes, and reorients our understanding of chronic illness in India and beyond.