Phantom/Liminal Fat and Feminist Theories of the Body

Katariina Kyrölä, Hannele Harjunen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
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This article brings together two concepts, ‘phantom fat’ and ‘liminal fat’, which both aim to grasp how fat in contemporary culture becomes a kind of material immateriality, corporeality in suspension. Comparing the spheres of representation and experience, we examine the challenges and usefulness of these concepts, and feminist fat studies perspectives more broadly, to feminist scholarship on the body. We ask what connects and disconnects fat corporeality and fat studies from ways of theorising other embodied differences, like gender, ‘race’, disability, class and sexuality, especially when thinking through their perceived mutability or removability, and assumptions about their relevance for subjectivity. While it is important to consider corporeality and selfhood as malleable and open to change in order to mobilise oppressive normativities around gendered bodies and selves, we argue that more attention should also be paid to the persistence of corporeality and a feeling of a relatively stable self, and the potential for empowerment in not engaging with or idealising continuous transformation and becoming. Furthermore, we suggest that the concepts of phantom fat and liminal fat can help shed light on some problematic ways in which feminist studies have approached – or not approached – questions of fat corporeality in relation to the politics of health and bodily appearance. Questions of weight, when critically interrogated together with other axes of difference, highlight how experiential and subjugated knowledges, as well as critical inquiry of internal prejudices, must remain of continued key importance to feminist projects.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)99–117
JournalFeminist Theory
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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