Annual Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) Lecture with Azita Chellappoo on “Fatphobia as Method”

Sheffield’s MAP chapter is holding its annual Minorities and Philosophy (MAP) Sheffield Lecture with Dr. Azita Chellappoo (The Open University), who will be talking about Fatphobia as Method. Feminist Epistemology and Knowledge Production in ‘Obesity Science’

When? – Friday 6th of May 2022, 2:30-4:30 GMT

Where? – University of Sheffield, Diamond Work Room 3 and online

You can register for the event here [LINK].

Abstract: Feminist epistemologists have generated significant insights into the ways in which values enter into many aspects of scientific inquiry, often guiding and shaping the research process. These insights have been valuable in demonstrating the influence of gender biases in science, and constructing visions of what a feminist science would look like. I suggest that the tools of feminist epistemology can also be usefully deployed in tracing the role of anti-fatness as a value that shapes knowledge production in ‘obesity science’.

‘Obesity’ has arisen as an object of intense scientific and public concern, characterised by many as an ‘epidemic’, and by dissenting voices as a ‘moral panic’. Scientific research around ‘obesity’ has been a central component of discourses that pathologise and medicalise larger bodies, and render a fatness a disease in itself. There has been a recent flourishing of work that (amongst other things) critiques damaging representations of fatness, aims to deconstruct the biomedical model of fatness, and highlights the racialisation of fatphobia. However, despite the flurry of scientific activity around ‘obesity’, and its implications for medical and public health interventions, this area has been given surprisingly little attention by philosophers of science.

I outline reasons for considering fatness to be a salient, and marginalised, social category, and the ways in which feminist epistemology can help us in understanding the role of values in ‘obesity science’. I then consider two cases to demonstrate the ways in which non-epistemic values may be at play in knowledge production in the science of ‘obesity’: firstly, research into metabolic dysfunction, and secondly, research into the ‘obesogenic’ microbiome.