I got an e-mail yesterday from a woman named Caroline, who’s an Economics and Sociology student at the University of Limerick, Ireland. She’s doing a final year project (which I take to be a senior thesis, for the Americans among us) on the obesity panic and fat politics, and she’s been instructed to do a “virtual ethnography” — studying the discussion at an online community — as part of it. Problem is, she needs to get permission from commenters to quote them, even though this project is not for publication.
The best way I could think of to go about this was to issue a call for regular commenters who are interested in participating to e-mail Caroline your screen name, so she can get in touch if she needs consent to use your words. If you’re an active commenter — or even not that active — and you’d like to help out, please drop Caroline a line at carolinecashman at gmail dot com. The more responses she gets, the more she’ll be able to pick and choose from among the zillions of awesome comments here.
Here’s a little more about the project, in Caroline’s words. If you have any questions or suggestions for her, you can leave them on this thread — or, of course, e-mail her.
My final year project (which will remain unpublished) is basically a critical view on obesity, and in particular a critical view on the alleged obesity epidemic. My literature review covers the limitations of the BMI, why obesity should not be defined as a disease and it questions the relationship between obesity and various diseases as well as mortality. I also examine the politics involved; the fact that pharmaceutical companies – particularly those associated with various weight loss drugs – have been found to sponsor numerous obesity forums and organisations, and how this influences the content of their websites etc. The research that is funded by these pharmaceutical companies is obviously going to be biased in favour of the obesity epidemic, which eventually means that due to the amount of articles being published of this genre, the government have no choice but to act accordingly.Of course I couldn’t forget the dieting industry! – and the promotion of so many different ‘treatments’ for obesity from the aktins diet to the south beach diet and of course the goverenments ‘food pyramid’ which advises us that our diets should be mostly made up of carbs. I will be analysing the research to support these claims as well as the effectiveness of dieting in the first place and the comparision between dieting and surgery where necessary.However, it’s worth noting that I have been advised to stay away from including the medias role in the epidemic, even though I know its a large one, but that would probably take up the entire project :)I’m also still trying to decide how much I want to include on stigmatisation, as again, I could go on forever! But even if I don’t dedicate a chapter to it, then I will probably just incorporate it throughout the whole project where relevant so any comments in relation to stigmatisation would also be much appreciated.