Scholarly interest in body size has increased in concert with recent efforts to shape and assess bodies in particular ways within industrialized social contexts. Attending to both overt and covert references to Eurocentric body projects, this chapter reviews literature in anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies that addresses the cultural politics of body size in various parts of the world. It begins with a discussion of biocultural paradigms, which accept certain biomedical categories even when challenging or reconfiguring their hegemonic power. Next is a survey of works analyzing body size within “non-Western” groups as well as European and North American subgroups. These studies often employ culturally powerful “Western” constructs as foils, an approach that risks cultural othering. The analysis then turns to the extensive literature that unpacks dominant Euro-American body practices and discourses. Here, diverse perspectives on several key concerns in sociocultural anthropology are considered; concepts of culture and power, theories of the body and embodiment, and understandings of human agency vary in instructive ways. The chapter concludes with a review of scholarship on postcolonial processes and representations that incorporates a critical perspective on Eurocentric preoccupations with body size.

Keyword(s): agencyembodimentfatnessgenderthinness

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  • Article Type: Review Article
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