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What's at Stake in Fatness as a Disability?

Disability Studies Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 1, Winter 2006

30 Pages Posted: 27 Jul 2006  

Anna R. Kirkland

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Women's Studies Program; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science

Abstract

This essay takes up the suggestion that fatness might be (or become) a disability, and uses the observations it yields to propose a new account of a way American antidiscrimination law governs identity categories and manages individuals. It would seem to be an improvement from a fat-rights perspective to gain coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and to be able to enjoy accommodations at work and in public places. This article offers an integrated alternative to the medical and social models of disability, using fat discrimination as a case study to illuminate its implications. Fat identity is likely to be absorbed into what I call managerial individualism, characterized by on-site regulation and negotiation of people's functional capacities in an indeterminate process. The study sets out a new concept of identity in the law — a managed process, not a status — and proposes to turn scholarly discussion about governance, resistance, and identity formation toward recognizing the full implications of such a concept. Identity as a managed process has very little leverage on politics, I conclude, and showcases a type of individualism that is very easily overwhelmed.

Keywords: disability, obesity, fat discrimination, accommodation, individualism, management

Suggested Citation

Kirkland, Anna R., What's at Stake in Fatness as a Disability?. Disability Studies Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 1, Winter 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=920485

Anna R. Kirkland (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Women's Studies Program ( email )

204 South State Street
Lane Hall
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

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