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FYI. Special issue of Fat Studies: Fatness and COVID-19. Call for proposals.


Call for proposals for a special issue of Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society on “Fatness and COVID-19”

To be considered for inclusion in this special issue, please send a 250-400 word proposal and current CV or resume to both co-editors, Rachel Colls (rachel.colls@durham.ac.uk)  and Julia E. Rogers (jerogers@ucsd.edu)  by September 15, 2020.  Any questions should be emailed to the co-editors.

This special issue of Fat Studies on Fatness and COVID-19 seeks to explore the symbolic, lived, and political life of fatness and fat people in the midst of the global pandemic.  COVID-19, and the public health response to it, have radically transformed the daily lived experiences of people all over the world. From lockdowns to contain the virus to a global economic downturn life in a “post-COVID” world looks, feels, tastes, and sounds different than before.  As populations were told to lockdown and the movement of bodies were policed and regulated, fatness came to the fore in different ways. Amidst this massive social, political, and economic shift, fatness has once again been positioned as a prime concern for individuals, governments, and the medical establishment.  From widespread expressions of fear about gaining weight during lockdown to discussions of withholding ventilator support for fat individuals in the event of “rationing” of care the pre-existing societal preoccupation with fatness has thread its way throughout the pandemic.   Even before there was any available biomedical data on morbidity or mortality rates for fat patients, The World Obesity Federation (2020) identified  people who were “overweight” and “obese” as more at risk of becoming seriously ill , needing  hospitalization, and intensive care treatment if they contracted SARS-COV-2. Indeed, countries are responding to the risks that fat bodies pose  by implementing public health campaigns, such as the UK government’s (2020) ‘Better Health’ 12 week weight loss programme which seeks to reduce people’s body size as well as protect valuable healthcare resources.  In the United States of America a familiar narrative about risk, personal responsibility, and blame has emerged reminiscent of the “moral danger” (Lupton, 1993) of the AIDS epidemic as the nation debates stay-at-home orders, mask use, and worthiness and expendability of the lives of people with risk factors..

For this special issue we seek papers that consider how fat people have been differentially affected by this novel virus and the social and political response to the pandemic. Fat and fatness are already deeply connected to topics of health, public health, personal well-being, health moralism, and conceptions of risk, blame, and responsibility in relation to public and personal health.  We welcome papers exploring the ways fatness has been pathologized, represented and experienced across a range of international and national contexts.  In addition, we seek papers that investigate the ways that fat, fatness, and fat embodiment have interacted with shifts in the social, political, and virtual world due to COVID-19. What has life under and post-lockdown been like for fat people and their advocates? How have fat people responded to the concerns expressed about their ‘health’’; and how have fat people built solidarity and community during a time when fatness is denigrated and feared?  We also seek papers that explore the overlapping oppressions that fat people face through intersectional analysis of race, gender, sexuality, social class, fatness and disability status during COVID-19.  COVID-19 has differentially affected communities of color and one way this suffering has been dismissed is through the leveraging of “obesity,” “culture,” and “lifestyle” to shift blame toward these communities and away from more structural explanations.

Proposed topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Everyday experiences of fatness under lockdown
  • Critical assessments of public health policy,  anti-obesity public health campaigns, or COVID-19 risk assessment practices
  • Discussion of fat bodies as expendable, unworthy of protection, or deserving of harm during the pandemic
  • Representations of fatness and COVID-19
  • Popular use of images of fatness or preoccupation with fatness, weight gain, or “overeating” under lockdown
  • Medicalization of  fat bodies
  • Risk and fatness
  • Disability and fatness in a COVID-19 context
  • Building (virtual and real life) fat communities
  • Experiences of isolation, loneliness, or loss of  community during lockdown centered around fatness
  • Impacts upon fat-owned or fat serving businesses
  • Experiences of anti-fat bias or discrimination in context of job loss, shifts in job responsibilities, or work-from-home practices
  • Fat phobia and discrimination
  • Eating and drinking
  • Making and creating under lockdown
  • Movement and physical activity
  • Hospitalisation and treatment
  • Mental health and emotions
  • Intersectional experiences of overlapping oppressions during COVID-19
  • Antiblackness and Antifatness intersecting in the construction of risk groups during COVID-19
  • Anti-fatness, COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter

Please send proposals and a current CV for proposed articles to Guest Editors:

Rachel Colls (rachel.colls@durham.ac.uk

Julia Rogers (jerogers@ucsd.edu)


Lupton, Deborah. “Risk as moral danger: the social and political functions of risk discourse in public health.” International journal of health services 23, no. 3 (1993): 425-435.

National Health Service (NHS) (2020) ‘Better Health’ (Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/better-health/ (Date Accessed: 29/07/20).

World Obesity Forum (2020) ‘Statement: Coronavirus (Covid -19) and Obesity’ (Available from: https://www.worldobesity.org/news/statement-coronavirus-covid-19-obesity (Date Accessed: 29/07/20)