Fat in Four Cultures

Increasingly, exposed to both medical advice, and to a billion dollar weight loss industry, people become worried they might be "fat." Yet weight loss itself is not easy at all, despite what people say. In this project, we are using comparative, collaborative ethnography to understand how worries about weight manifest in different societies, using detailed interviews from our long-term field sites in Paraguay, Samoa, Japan and the U.S. It turns out, we are all obsessed with being slim. The frustrated effort to meet this elusive, even unattainable goal is what increasingly binds us together.

  Project Details

Our earlier work on globalizing weight stigma has indicated the worry about weight is seemingly globalized, and with potentially devastating emotional and social consequences. In this project we are using innovative techniques of comparative, collaborative, feminist-inspired ethnography with systematic modes of text analysis to test how people differently and similarly are understanding and acting on anxieties of "fatness" in four very distinct global sites. Data collection is completed in Samoa, Japan, and Georgia, U.S. In summer 2019 we will collect additional data in Mississippi. Major themes include how weight intersects with notions of masculinity/femininity, the production and experience of body stigma versus bodies as social connectors, and food nostalgia.

  Research Team


Supported in part by Mayo Clinic-ASU Obesity Solutions


A book is in the final stages of preparation.

Other publications: SturtzSreetharan, C., and A. Brewis. 2019. Rice, men, and other everyday anxieties: Navigating obesogenic urban food environments in Osaka, Japan. In: Vojnovic, I., A. Pearson, A. Gershim, G. Deverteuil and A. Allen (eds), Handbook of Global Urban Health. Routledge, in press (July).