CFP – Obesity in Canada: Historical and Critical Perspectives

Proposals for papers are invited for a symposium and an edited collection of essays on critical perspectives on Obesity in Canada. In Canada estimated obesity rates have risen over the course of the twentieth century, though the measurement and criteria for being obese have also changed during this time (Mitchinson 2009). Particular groups in Canada, notably low income people, are more likely to be labelled obese, and yet a glance through newspapers, magazines and television shows suggests that fatness and staying slim are the preoccupations of the middle class (Raine 2004). In 2003 the World Health Organization  (WHO) reported that “almost all countries” around the world were experiencing an “obesity epidemic” as a result of increasing industrialization, mechanization and urbanization (WHO  2003).  WHO’s report legitimized escalating fears that the world’s population was growing fatter and provided a focus for more general concerns about normal body weight and shape.

Left out of the dominant “obesity epidemic” discourse is a discussion of the implications of naming and targeting the “obese.” As a result, a critical literature on the obesity epidemic has emerged that asks: How do we measure health? How do our attitudes toward obesity develop? What are the consequences of not measuring up?  In recent years scholars in the sciences and social sciences have queried the statistical base on which the concern about obesity resides, challenged the dire health future faced by those who are obese and suggested that physical fitness is more beneficial and attainable than the goal of reaching some “ideal” weight.  This critical literature has argued that obesity is a culturally and historically contingent concept, one that is not simply a biological condition but a discursively constructed category. As the “obesity epidemic” and critical responses to it reach the ten-year mark, we invite contributors to a symposium and edited collection – the first of its kind in Canada – that expand and complicate our understanding of fatness and the obesity epidemic in the Canadian context and which interrogate the historical, social and cultural dimensions of obesity in Canada.  Papers are invited from a range of disciplinary and perspectives which consider, among other topics:

◦       Histories of obesity in Canada.

◦       Perspectives on the changing scientific and cultural meaning of obesity

◦       What it means to “be fat.”

◦       Perspectives on nutrition and dieting.

◦       Fat rights.

◦       Obesity as a “disability”?

◦       Race, class and gendered dimensions of obesity.

◦       Perspectives on Aboriginal obesity.

◦       Obesity and the making of nation and/or national identity in Canada.

◦       Obesity and masculinities.

The editors will review all proposals and make a selection based on quality and relevance to the project’s themes. Emerging scholars are encouraged to submit proposals. Authors of accepted proposals will be invited to contribute to the collection and to participate in a May/June 2012 planning meeting for “Obesity in Canada: Historical and Critical Perspectives.”

Please submit a 300-500 word abstract, working title, and brief CV by October 1, 2011. Authors will be notified of acceptance in January 2012, and completed manuscripts (6000-8000 words) will be due March 15, 2012. The symposium will take place in May 2012.

Queries and/or completed proposals (in a Word document) should be sent to:

Deborah McPhail
Postdoctoral Fellow, Institute for Social and Economic Research
Memorial University of Newfoundland

The Co-Editors for the collection are:

Jenny Ellison
Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for Canadian Studies
Mount Allison University

Wendy Mitchinson
Canada Research Chair in Gender and Medical History
Department of History, University of Waterloo

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