Fluid Fat: Considerations of Culture and Corporeality

Karin Sellberg & Ann Sellberg



There has been a surge of fat studies in recent feminist academia, and numerous special issues, collections and articles including Susie Orbach’s seminal Fat is a Feminist Issue, Esther Rothblum and Sondra Solovay’s Fat Studies Reader, Samantha Murray’s ‘Fat Bodily Being’ special issue of Somatechnics and Tove Solander’s article ‘Fat Feminism’ have considered how fat affects conceptions of self and identity. There is very little scholarship on the ontological perimeters of fat as a corporeal substance, however. Feminist studies tend to focus on how fat as an exterior addition to the idea of the female body beautiful affects our sense of self, but seldom touch on how fat as an interior part of us always already functions within the continual constitution of said self. In these fluid ruminations, we contemplate and chew over the politics and poetics of body fat – as well as the interior/exterior, stable/ephemeral, solid/fluid binaries these have come to straddle in contemporary culture. Correlating our thoughts and experiences, as a cultural historian and theorist and a medical doctor/writer – two specialists of embodiment on different sides of another discursive divide – we negotiate the processes and transformations that occur inside and outside the body as fat is ingested, digested and divested in the corporeal and cultural body-machine, both on a physiological and a conceptual plane. As we manipulate and melt the cultural boundaries we encounter, we find that fat is as scientifically as it is socially ephemeral. Fat is a “wobbly” substance, and a simultaneously substantial and insubstantial fluid. It is the body matter we refuse to consider, but we can’t live without.


Keywords: fat, poetics of body fat, fat studies, corporeal and cultural body-machine