I’ve had a longstanding professional interest in cultural perspectives on obesity – particularly among African American women. In fact, it was a central focus of my doctoral studies. I conducted my research between 2001 and 2005, but I continue to be intrigued by the social and cultural meanings ascribed to body size and shape. These meanings vary by race and ethnicity, social class, religion, country of birth, whether you live in the North, South or on the West coast of the U.S., and a host of other factors. Scholars have analyzed obesity and body size among women from the standpoints of feminism, capitalism, psychology, philosophy, Foucauldian power relations, sociology, and anthropology. Representations and explorations of the large Black female body are also found in poetry, literature, and the visual arts
During my graduate studies, I concentrated on applying theoretical perspectives from the humanities and social sciences to my thinking about how we might develop public health strategies to reduce the prevalence of obesity among African American women. From the perspective of public health, obesity is a risk factor associated with the development of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, heart disease, and arthritis, to name a few. I loved the depth and the breadth of my studies and the opportunity to explore the complexities of body size and weight in more than medical terms.
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