Princeton course fights 'fat phobia' through dance

Matthew Penza
New Jersey Campus Correspondent

  • Princeton University is offering a course this fall that will “examine the changing history, aesthetics, politics, and meanings of fatness” through dance and performance art.
  • Readings for the course bemoan "fat phobia" as "just another form of prejudice," and the class has a particular focus on “intersectional dimensions of the fat body."
  • Princeton University is offering a course this fall that will “examine the changing history, aesthetics, politics, and meanings of fatness” through dance and performance art.

    "FAT: The F-Word and the Public Body" is a 300-level course cross-listed under the Dance, American Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies programs, and will be taught by Professor Judith Hamera.

    "How might fat be a liberating counterperformance?"   

    “This seminar investigates discourses and politics around the fat body from a performance studies perspective,” the course description states. “How does this ‘f-word’ discipline and regulate bodies in/as public? How do dancers reveal these politics with special clarity? How might fat be a liberating counterperformance?”

    [RELATED: ‘Fat Studies’ course deems ‘weightism’ a ‘social justice issue’]

    The description notes that “intersectional dimensions of the fat body are central to the course,” indicating that students will explore how obesity combines with other marginalized identities to exacerbate individual perceptions of oppression.

    While assignments will include both “written work and group performances,” no dance experience is necessary to enroll in the course.

    The written work involves three “short papers” addressing "an ethnography of the normative Princeton body, a close reading of the ways fat works in a specific example, and a research-informed creative point of view assignment;” as well as a “seminar paper” analyzing an example from the class.

    In addition, students will participate in a group performance examining the "relationship between fat and performative elements of public life,” which accounts for 20 percent of their final grade.

    A “sample reading list” for the course includes selections such as Fat Politics, which argues that "there is little proof that obesity causes so much disease and death or that losing weight is what makes people healthier,” as well as The Fat Studies Reader, which contends that weight-consciousness is "just another form of prejudice—one with especially dire consequences for many already disenfranchised groups."

    [RELATED: ‘Fat Studies’ course labels dieting ‘special enemy’ of diversity]

    Fat Talk Nation, another of the readings, decries the "disturbing" damage done to the feelings of those targeted by the "veritable war on fat" and introduces neologisms such as "biocitizen, biomyth, biopedagogy, bioabuse, biocop, and fat personhood."

    Similarly, Queering Fat Embodiment laments "fat-phobia" and the "ever-growing medicalisation, pathologisation, and commodification of fatness," and seeks to "mak[e] explicit the intersectionality of fat identities and thereby counter[] the assertion that fat studies has in recent years reproduced a white, ableist, heteronormative subjectivity in its analyses."

    According to The Daily Caller, Hamera has offered the course at least once before, during the 2016 fall semester.

    As of press time, enrollment in this year’s course had hit the maximum of 15 students—seven freshmen/sophomores and 8 juniors/seniors.

    Hamera did not respond to Campus Reform's request for comment.

    Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @mpenza19





    Matthew Penza

    Matthew Penza

    New Jersey Campus Correspondent

    Matthew Penza is a New Jersey Campus Correspondent, and reports liberal bias and abuse on campus for Campus Reform. He is a junior at Princeton University, concentrating in the Department of Computer Science. He is currently a managing editor for The Princeton Tory, and is involved with the Aquinas Institute, the American Whig-Cliosophic Society, Princeton Pro-Life, and the Anscombe Society.

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