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Fearing the Black Body


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About the Author

Sabrina Strings is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine, and a recipient of the Berkeley Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellowship, where she held appointments in the Department of Sociology and the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. Her work has appeared in Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, The Feminist Wire, and Feminist Media Studies.


Strings seeks to illuminate how our current fat phobia is rooted, specifically, in a fear of black women. [She] persuasively shows that ... the link between fatness, racial otherness and, especially, female blackness, looms prominently in the American cultural imagination. * Times Literary Supplement *
A much-needed examination of the racism and colonialism embedded within society's imagined dangers of fat (black) bodies. * Library Journal *
Once upon a time, fat bodies were celebrated in art, in newspapers and magazines, and in medical journals, but that all changed during the Enlightenment Era of the 18th century when fatness was purposefully intertwined with the idea that people of color were racially inferior savages. Sabrina Strings's incredible book analyzes how that shift continued to plague Black women. . . . Fearing the Black Body makes the convincing argument that the thin ideal has always been racist. * Bitch Media *
Fearing the Black Body is a joy to read, smooth and erudite. And it is also a joy to experience, to feel Strings pulling the strands of the historical web closer and closer so that their knots and tangled intersections are clear to see. Most important, though, is the intellectual satisfaction it provides in giving a clear and well-argued convincing rationale for the origins, reach, and astonishing success of a bias whose history, as it had previously been presented, was patchy and inadequate. * Nursing Clio *
Traces centuries of racist pseudoscience up to the 20th century, demonstrating that today's ideal of thinness is inherently both sexist and racist. * Colorlines *
[A] thoroughly researched exploration of the historical relationship between race-and weight-related prejudices...This fascinating and carefully constructed argument persuasively establishes a heretofore unexplored connection between racism and Western standards for body size, making it a worthy contribution to the social sciences. * Publishers Weekly *
As a sociologist with a rich understanding of social history and cultural studies, Sabrina Strings asks and answers new and immensely generative questions about the ways of thinking that rule the world. Her astute analyses reveal the ways in which seemingly innocent aesthetic judgments about womens bodies register the effects of deep historical currents of thought and practice. -- George Lipsitz, author of How Racism Takes Place
In Fearing the Fat Black Body, Sabrina Strings fills what has long been a gaping hole in scholarship on fatness and body size. Her careful historiographical exploration of the racialized roots of anti-fat, pro-thin bias should figure prominently in any academic, medical, political, or popular discussion of the contemporary American 'Obesity Epidemic.' In looking at the complex intersections of race, gender, class, and morality in current American framings of fatness and size, Strings does not simply add race to the conversation but shows that any analysis of body size that does not center race is necessarily incomplete. -- Natalie Boero,Author of Killer Fat: Media, Medicine and Morals in the American Obesity Epidemic
This is an important, deeply-researched study of the racialized roots of fat denigration. It should be a must-read for scholars whose work focuses on the history of race, of gender, and of the bodyas well as by anyone who is interested in our deeply problematic contemporary culture of dieting and body shame. -- Amy Erdman Farrell,Author of Fat Shame: Stigma and the Fat Body in American Culture
A meticulous work that puts the past in conversation with the future and demonstrates how the desires of a few can be forcefully encroached upon others until they hold true for many ... reminds readers that policing weight, a la Foucault's 'biopolitics,' is almost always about control as much as it is about a 'preferred size.' * American Journal of Sociology *
Strings uses the methods of process-tracing and historical narrative to create a work of impressive scope that moves beyond the consensus of feminist scholars ... [Strings] has shifted the chronology of gendered and racialized anti-fatness, inviting scholars to discover sources that can amplify non-white and non-elite voices in this longue duree of fat history. * Journal of Interdisciplinary History *
Fearing the Black Body participates in a critical discourse that exposes the convergence of anxieties about race and fatness as it manifests in our current fat phobia. The text successfully demonstrates how the Black body has been subject to ongoing surveillance, and more specifically how it has been co-opted as a site where struggles around race and class issues play out. * Fat Studies *

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