Full Text


Matt Qvortrup

Subject Medicine
Sociology of Health, Aging, and Medicine » Sociology of Health and Illness

Key-Topics health

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Obesity has traditionally been seen as a medical and physiological condition. As far back as 1924, the editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association editorialized that “obesity” was purely the result of “malfunctions in normal metabolic processes” ( American Medical Association 1924 : 1003). In recent years this view has changed. Sociologists have increasingly recognized that obesity can be seen as a social construct ( Crossley 2004 ) or even be analyzed as a “social fact”, in Durkheim's sense of the word. In 1897, Émile Durkheim (1997) showed that suicide – perhaps the most personal of all decisions – could be analyzed through the conceptual lenses of sociology. Obesity, much like suicide, is often regarded as a personal problem: the result of an inability to control one's desires in front of the fridge. Obesity does have a medical dimension, yet like suicide, this growing phenomenon also has a social dimension. Interest in the social aspects of obesity is nothing new. Jeffrey Sobal (2004) has written extensively about the stigmatization and discrimination of obese individuals. Scholars of a more anthropological bent have written about the different social perceptions of obesity, for example, the positive view of fatness among some indigenous peoples. In a 1987 article entitled “An Anthropological Perspective on Obesity,” Brown and Konner found that “cross-cultural ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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