Accepting the deposition of fat

The final strategy is a strategy of fat acceptance. This discourse takes as its starting point the assumption that the crisis itself needs to be redefined through a strategy of adaptation to the new conditions of fat deposition. Strategies for defending fat bodies vary. In some cases it is about acceptance, though not celebration, by learning to live with fat rather than dealing with constant anxiety of the failure to remove fat (BBC 2004). In others though it is about a celebration of fatness, as evidence by "Fat Cities—for Big Beautiful Fat Women and Men and Friends" (Fat Cities website). In this context, the strategy for intervention is to recontextualize the way in which fat bodies, sewers and cities may be understood. The acceptance of obese bodies has implications for the "re-tooling" of other urban infrastructures. Rick Hampson (2000) in USA Today reports how "Americans" expanding backsides are behind a trend toward wider, more comfortable seating in public areas." Here we find a discourse of acceptance emerging: "In The End, People Just Need More Room" runs the title of the article. Hampson reports how subways, theatres, airlines, sport stadiums and opera houses have responded to demands for wider seats, therefore reducing seating capacity to increase sitting room. Seating had become standardized in the US with 18 inches recognized in building codes. This is coming under question. Indeed, sponsored by the airforce and major manufacturers, a project—the Civilian American and European Surface Anthropometric Resource—is using scanning technology to measure the contours of 4,000 volunteers and develop new standards. Bodies themselves are also being recategorized with the US standards on levels of overweightness and obesity being revised upwards to normalize larger body size. At the level of the sewage infrastructure, the acceptance of fat deposition is a strategy with the sewers being enlarged to accommodate fat deposition or simply being treated with biotechnologies that eat the fat. In this sense the city is recontextualized to support the normalization of fatter bodies and sewers. The city itself is reshaped and retooled not to mobilize bodies and sewers but to accommodate the immobilities of deposited fat. If bodies and sewers are no longer malleable then the city itself has to be made malleable to fit the new bodies. This strategy does little to problematize the wider question of the extended metabolism of fat. Instead the metabolism of the city itself has to change to cope with the problems of deposition in the metabolism of bodies and sewers.

By looking across the three potential responses to fat deposition in sewers, cities and bodies, we highlight powerful affinities across metabolisms between the discourses, social practices and technologies involved in re-mobilizing fat. Further still, in each of the metabolisms, mobilizing fat in one context requires a mobilization in another: people have to be enrolled in terms of intercepting grease and fat from their homes or from restaurants, to keep the sewers mobile; people need to be mobilized to keep fat more mobile within an urban context; and cities themselves need to become retooled or reconfigured to keep the people moving. Finally, each of the strategies embodies a quite different view of the cities' reconfigured relations with fat. A strategy of removal implies that the fat is attacked to ensure that bodies, sewers and the city can be slimmed down. The strategy of prevention of fat deposition implies a defensive approach in which bodies, sewers and the city are socio-technically re-engineered to ensure that fat is kept on the move. A strategy of fat acceptance implies a sense of defeat or possibly tolerance and perhaps even celebration as society learns to live with fat bodies, sewers and cities. Each strategy brings fat into focus in quite different, but not necessarily mutually exclusive ways, which is why strategies for dealing with fat in these different metabolisms are so contested.

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