Fatness and the good life
: An interdisciplinary literature study about the existential dimensions of fatness

  • Emma Wellenberg

Student thesis: Master's Thesis: Humanistic Studies


With its focus on the social and political domains of fatness, Fat Studies as a research field risks extracting the existential meanings of fat embodiment. Fat Studies lacks a framework that addresses existential issues related to fatness and thus misses an account of how fat people make sense of their fat existence. This thesis is a theoretical and interdisciplinary study that examines how Charles Taylor’s account of existential meaning-making can be used to fill this gap in Fat Studies. My analysis shows that issues related to fatness can be easily read in an existential manner through the “big five” existential issues of human existence: death, freedom, existential isolation, identity and meaning. Locating these five existential concerns in Taylor’s metaphor of the moral space, I found that fatness can be conceptualized as a mainly disorienting experience, in which fatness complicates processes of existential meaning-making. Taylor’s metaphor sheds an existential light on issues within the Fat Studies field and helps understand them as having impact on a fundamental level of existence. This account of existential meaning making must be used cautiously in order to do justice to Fat Studies’ normative aims. However, it clearly has potential to understand how fat people navigate through what is good.
Date of Award12 Jul 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorSimon van der Weele (Supervisor) & Doret J. de Ruyter (Supervisor)

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