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    'Banding Together:' Biosociality, Weight Loss Surgery, and Neoliberal Discourses Around Obesity

    Drawing on an interdisciplinary theoretical framework, my dissertation research employed multiple qualitative methods, including ethnography, to explore the psychosocial experience of having been medically diagnosed as morbidly obese and then having had weight loss (bariatric) surgery. 

    My research documents how losing weight frees up bariatric patients, the majority of whom are women, from both anti-fat stigma and the many obstacles and calculations involved in navigating the urban built environment as an very fat person.  However, post-operatively, these calculations shift.  Individuals who have bariatric surgery must now learn to navigate both the dramatically altered interior spaces of their bodies and exterior social relations in new ways. 

    My data show that these new challenges, in combination with a lack of structured, accessible medical follow-up, help to produce the desire for and the creation of new spaces of sociality and kinship. These new sites of sociality become spaces in which individuals who have had weight loss surgery collectively negotiate the physical, physiological, and social changes that are part and parcel of post-operative life.  As well, they are spaces in which bariatric patients practice and reinscribe, but also challenge dominant norms of gender and sexuality. 

    Ultimately bariatric communities and support groups are spaces in which patients work toward proper selves as they work toward proper bodies, but always in ways that reflect highly complex and often ambivalent frameworks of understanding and experience.  

    You can read the abstract and find information about university access to the full dissertation here.