British Neoliberal Governmentality as a Form of Structural Violence Against the ‘Fat Individual’

Nadia Goldsmith


 

Introduction

The World Health Organization declared obesity a major public health problem that needed to be monitored through effective governance to avoid a looming public health crisis in 1977 (James, 2008). British neoliberal governmentality has an interest in situating health and the problem of obesity at the level of the individual with the aim of moving society toward a more optimal state of health and wellbeing (Crawford, 1980).

This essay argues that British neoliberal governmentality is a form of structural violence against the ‘fat individual’. A definition of structural violence will be offered drawing upon academic theorisations before relating to it in context. British neoliberal governmentality as a form of structural violence against the fat individual will be examined, focussing on hegemonic state ideologies that situate the fat individual outside mainstream society, manipulating them to be ‘docile bodies’ of neoliberal control that behave in a particular manner, so as not to threaten established societal norms of ‘healthism’ (Dorn and Laws cited in Del Casino, 2009). Developing Galtung’s (1990) definition of ‘cultural violence’, UK reality series The Biggest Loser (2012) will be explored to demonstrate how televised space legitimises structural violence against the fat individual with cultural representations of their body, which makes their mistreatment seem ‘acceptable’ and ‘justifiable’.

The relentless victimisation of the fat individual through the structural violence of British neoliberal governmentality will be challenged with a discussion of macro and micro level Fat Activism, which is allowing the fat individual to resist and renegotiate structural violence in virtual space through collective agency – emancipating their bodies toward socio-political belonging, challenging dominant neoliberal governmentality with a critical edge. In conclusion, I draw together theorisations throughout this essay to offer a viewpoint on the way one should conceptualise ‘violence’ in the contemporary.

 

Structural Violence

‘Structural violence’ refers to the systemic, subtle and invisible ways in which social structures harm or disadvantage individuals. In Violence, Peace, and Peace Research Galtung (1969) outlined structural violence not as the physical depiction of violence at the forefront of our minds, but the invisible social structures of injustice that violate or endanger an individual’s ‘right to life’ on an everyday basis. In this sense, Galtung’s definition of structural violence raises our consciousness toward a more expansive geographical understanding of ‘violence’, whereby direct physical violence is only a fragment of contemporary violence, with structural violence being far more pervasive in ‘everyday’ spaces (Oeppen, 2017).

Expanding on Galtung’s conceptualisations, anthropologist Paul Farmer (2001) considers structural violence to further be, the political structures within a society that injure or harm the subaltern (marginalised), negatively impacting their health. Farmer frequently details structural violence as a force that reduces the capacity of individuals to act independently of their own free will. He writes of the subaltern:

Their sickness is a result of structural violence: neither culture nor pure individual will is at fault; rather, historically given (and often economically driven) processes and forces conspire to constrain individual agency. Structural violence is visited upon all those whose social status denies them access to the fruits of scientific and social progress (Farmer, 2001: 78).

A key component of structural violence is that, it is difficult to assign culpability, for unlike direct physical violence, it is not attributable to the individual but the consequence of seemingly ‘smooth’ functioning social, economic and political systems (Žižek, 2008). As argued by Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois (2004) it is therefore important to acknowledge structural violence is largely invisible for it constitutes the routine grounds of everyday life. Structural violence is often not deviant behaviour but, “to the contrary is defined as virtuous action in the service of generally applauded conventional social, economic and political norms” (Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois, 2004: 5).

In this essay, structural violence is conceptualised as the psychological harm induced on the fat individual through neoliberal governmentality (Lee, 2016). This structural violence against the fat individual impairs their ‘fundamental human needs’ to be loved, cared and respected, inflicting psychological harm on their being through societal stigmatization that renders them unequal status to others, as they are largely stereotyped as excessive, lazy and a moral failure. Structural violence toward the fat individual, often goes unchecked, as ‘harm’ is not exercised through physical violence but perpetrated through neoliberal ideologies.

This essay will demonstrate structural violence is not an exceptional occurrence, but an everyday geographical process structurally embedded in neoliberalism in which the “establishment, maintenance, and extension of hierarchical orderings of social relations are re-created, sustained and intensified” (Springer et al, 2016: 160) and ‘othering’ of the fat individual looms large.

 

The Structural Violence of Neoliberal Governmentality

The fat individual has undoubtedly become an object of state control in neoliberal Britain. As noted by Sassen (2014) the need for neoliberal governance to marginalise certain individuals from its populace, such as the fat individual, is derived from their perceived economic threat to state productivity. Governance aims to expel them from mainstream society as they symbolise an ‘unproductive citizen’. In the case of neoliberal Britain, the fat individual is manipulated to view themselves as ‘worthless’ and ‘repugnant’ as their size goes against neoliberal ideologies and threatens state ideas of productivity.

Neoliberal governmentality is a form of post-welfare state politics that has outsourced the responsibility of personal health and wellbeing from the government onto the shoulders of the everyday citizen. The structural violence of neoliberal governmentality constrains the fat individual’s capacity to act of their own free will, as representations of their body as ‘shameful’ and a ‘burden’ psychologically control them to hide their body from a society that condemns them, or, urges them to change their image in order to be accepted. Neoliberal governmentality can be classified as structural violence for it constrains the agency of particular citizens through the internalization of beliefs portrayed by popular governmental discourses as ‘common knowledge’ (Foucault,1978 cited in Burchell et al 1991; Foucault, 1975-76).

Bio-politics is a political strategy deployed by neoliberal governmentality that enacts structural violence against the fat individual, through conditioning their bodies to subjugation and control (Foucault, 1976). Agamben (1998) notes through exploitation of scientific knowledge, the contemporary neoliberal state has acquired the ability to define who is included and who is excluded as worthy, sovereign human beings. The neoliberal labelling of the fat body is for it to be excluded from citizenship for it does not fit into mainstream ideals; their voice excluded from the public realm, and the structural violence they are exposed rendered ‘legitimate’ through their consideration/figuration as less-than-human. Their bodies are objects of state control, or what Agamben (1998) terms ‘bare life’ politics.

Through statistics on the dangers of obesity, neoliberal governance has been able to legitimize control over the fat individual, proclaiming to wider society that obesity interventions will allow them to live a longer, healthier and happier life. Through the lens of Foucault, manipulation of scientific knowledge by governments to propel control over their citizens marks a ‘slippery slope’ in contemporary society, in which structural violence is dangerously moving toward totalitarian control of citizens bodies. As Skrabenek (1994) emphasises:

The pursuit of health is a symptom of unhealth. When this pursuit is no longer a personal yearning but part of state ideology, healthism for short, it becomes a symptom of political sickness. Extreme versions of healthism provide a justification for racism, segregation, and eugenic control since ‘healthy’ means patriotic, pure, while ‘unhealthy’ equals foreign, polluted (Skrabenek, 1994, 15).

The UK Foresight Report on Obesity (2007) is an example of how British neoliberal governmentality has deliberately manipulated knowledge on the ‘dangers of obesity’ in order to control the everyday citizen, internalising the ‘fat body’ as a ‘moral outcast’ that threatens the neoliberal economy. As a consequence, Wang et al (2004) note the fat individual has become subject to structural violence in the form of discrimination and stigmatization in a variety of UK social environments (Wang et al, 2004).

A striking financial statistical finding pushed into public discourse by the Foresight Report stated that by “2050, 60% of men and 40% of women in the country would be obese, costing the NHS at the very least £49.9 billion a year” (James, 2008, 347). This is a classic example of how the government uses the economic risks of obesity to control the everyday citizen, keeping track of their weight, tapping into their fear of the economic turmoil Britain could face with increased obesity. Through scaremongering statistics, neoliberal government thereby renders it ‘natural’ for the everyday citizen to stigmatize the ‘obese’ who are depicted as responsible for extortionate health expenses and their own misfortune.

Such government statistics that perpetuate victim blaming toward the fat individual are dangerously neglecting wider circumstances out of the individuals control, such as poverty, which may significantly be contributing to their obesity. Although contentious, it is recognised that those impoverished are more likely to be obese relative to those on higher incomes (Lee, 2012). For poverty means limited food budgets and fosters poor neighbourhoods in which there is often a largely disproportionate number of fast food chains relative to upmarket supermarkets providing healthy alternatives (ibid). Despite this, British neoliberal governmentality continues to deny the need to improve social and physical environments in which low-income people live to solve obesity, but instead emphasises and manipulates scientific knowledge to reinforce a demonization of their bodies.

Neoliberal governmentality has concerningly left the identity of the fat individual in Britain to be constructed through the lens of prejudicial representations that significantly disadvantage their being comparatively with other citizens. Said (1978) argues demonising representations by those in power, directly impacts the treatment of the ‘labelled’ in an often-derogatory fashion in everyday spaces. On the conscious and unconscious level, representations of the fat individual through neoliberal governmentality, have widely installed a hegemonic idea in the western citizenry that justifies structural violence toward the fat individual, who are repeatedly represented as a threat to their own health and that of the wider British economy. This renders neoliberal governmentality to be a “state-sponsored fatphobic tub-thumping” (Cooper, 2016, 24).

After Gramsci (1998), hegemonic ideas within neoliberal governmentality that repeatedly subjugate the fat body have resulted in the everyday citizen internalising discriminatory state ideologies so much so that they have become depoliticised and viewed as a ‘given’, rather than as a political construct. It is therefore paramount for the body to remain central in our understandings of structural violence against the fat individual for, “physical traits, or more precisely, the meanings attached to bodily traits go a long way toward ‘explaining’ some (but not all) violent acts” (Tyner, 2012: 7).

Paradoxically, the ‘fat individual’ appears to be acting of their own free will to change their size in neoliberal Britain as they adopt obesity intervention strategies, however, underneath, their motivations are arguably controlled by the psychological manipulation of neoliberal governmentality and state paternalism. The fact we do not detect structural violence against the fat individual perhaps indicates we are all victims of structural violence, but habitually misconceive it as rhetoric ‘for the good of all’. The familiarity and everydayness of this makes it invisible in neoliberal Britain (Bourdieu and Wacquant in Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois, 2009).

British – neoliberal – governmental discourses that habitually shame the fat individual have led to popular culture representations of their body in British televised space, which have acted to place their objectification as an accepted part of contemporary western culture, rather than a social-political construct. The relationship between British neoliberal governmental discourse and popular culture in contemporary Britain is highly interconnected, with one directly feeding the other and vice-versa.

The British government’s ongoing televised healthy eating campaign Change for Life (2013) is a succinct example of this intertwined relationship. As governmental discourses stigmatize the fat individual, televised marketing strategies such as that of the Change for Life campaign relay such ‘fat shaming’ ideals by characterizing fatty food as not food ‘smart’ (Change for Life, 2013) and thus, more widely, the fat individual as also ‘not smart’. Consequently, such derogatory portrayals of the ‘fat individual’ in popular televised space incite a vicious cycle that prejudicially feeds and normalizes the demonization of the ‘fat individual’ in contemporary governmental and popular discourses.

 

Cultural Violence in Televised Space

 

On-screen, in televised space, the ‘fat individual’ is continually depicted through a normative lens that outlines what a ‘healthy body’ should look like, consequently rendering their fat body to encompass the ‘abnormal’ and ‘unsightly’ (Kyrölä, 2014). In 1990, Galtung, proposed that elements of a society’s culture could be used to legitimise structural violence toward marginalised social groups. Galtung termed the act of legitimising structural violence, or its rendering as somewhat more societally acceptable, or to ‘feel right’ or at least ‘not wrong’ to be ‘cultural violence’ (Galtung, 1990: 291-292).

The Biggest Loser (2012) – a UK reality programme in which overweight contestants govern themselves to lose weight in a regimented boot camp with the ‘aid’ of gruelling personal trainers – is an exemplar of cultural violence against the fat individual. Through constant depictions of their body as ‘lazy’, ‘unproductive’ and ‘apathetic’, The Biggest Loser subtly justifies structural violence against the fat individual by reinforcing social-spatial boundaries between the fat individual and the everyday citizen, which Sibley (1995) notes is a fundamental characteristic of the geographies of exclusion. Emotionally charged commands bellowed at the overweight contestants throughout the programme by personal trainers such as, “I want control”, propels neoliberal ideologies of the fat body as ‘less than human’. That is, one failing to embody basic human qualities of self-control. Consequently, reinforcing the idea that fat contestant – and ‘fat individuals’ in general – are deserving of physical and mental hardship until they learn to acquire such a skill.

In the opening sequence, professional trainer Rob ‘Killer’ Edmond, disturbingly confesses to the viewer, “I make no apologies for what I’m about to do to them [the fat contestants]” before bellowing, “welcome to hell”, as the camera shows him aggressively splattering fat contestants with mud when they do not perform to his fitness standards. Professional trainer Charlotte Ord adds, “I don’t think contestants have any idea what is going to hit them, mentally or physically”.

Through examining emotionally powered language on The Biggest Loser one can note how structural violence is permeated in the communication of language itself (Žižek, 2008). Abusive verbal language toward the fat contestant strengthens the supposed ‘right’ of neoliberal governmentality and the healthy citizen to govern the ‘fat individual’ into discipline through psychological harm. Re-stating to the viewer – as part of wider society – to have no remorse in the mistreating of ‘fat individuals’.

Consistent unequal power relations between the personal trainer and fat contestant throughout The Biggest Loser mirrors neoliberal governmentality on a micro-level in televised space. The professional trainer, like neoliberal governance, adopts the role of ‘dominator’ and ‘coercer’ as they embody societal norms of a slim ‘desirable’ body (Kyrölä, 2014). In contrast, the fat contestant, like the fat individual in neoliberal Britain, ‘the dominated’, is controlled through structural violence that constrains their individual agency and supresses their natural behaviour. Thereby as Kyrölä (2014) writes:

 The multifaceted power relations that produce and maintain the longing towards a normative body become dramatized as simple relations between participants who want to change and experts who spur them to change.  The norm is never questioned, just like the experts should never be questioned (Kyrölä, 2014: 68).

Cultural representations such as those in The Biggest Loser reflect a neoliberal governmentality in which the burden of remaining healthy is no longer on the shoulder of the government (the personal trainer) but on that of the everyday citizen (the fat contestant), who blame themselves if they default to a seemingly ‘unhealthy’ size (Rose, 1999). Through repeated reinforcement, the unequal position of the fat contestant in boot camp compared to the dominating personal trainers works to render their structural violence in neoliberal Britain acceptable.

In the first episode, overweight contestant Jessie, 22, is evidently the product of such logics, which have psychologically ‘reformed’ her to think negatively about her size. When expressing her thoughts that her size makes her insecure and feel that she needs to change in order to be respected, it is clear that the negative labelling of her body has caused her to internalise state control (Foucault, 1975-1976). Jessie strikingly declares, “I feel my weight is holding me back because it affects my personality, it makes me paranoid. I feel unhappy, I feel unsexy”. Her extensive use of “I feel” demonstrates an internalised psychological manipulation under fat-shaming forms of governmentality, which inform her that her weight must be reduced. Jessie powerfully demonstrates that the fat individual is dominated by hegemonic ideologies in neoliberal Britain, so much so, many largely fail to recognise their own oppression as they are overwhelmed with internalised feelings of disgust toward their own being.

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Figure 1: Contestant Jessie, from the UK 2012 season of The Biggest Loser, next to the giant screen scales used in contestant weigh-ins. Photo source: The Biggest Loser (2012).

The Biggest Loser (2012) is undoubtedly a form of cultural violence enacted in televised space against the ‘fat individual’, which is used to justify and propagate structural violence through (re)producing the normative understandings of neoliberal fat-shaming governmentality. Depicting obesity as self-inflicted, televised space firmly situates ‘fatness’ as a socio-cultural issue, rather than a political construct through neoliberal governance. Through the persistent ‘othering’ of the fat body, televised space reinforces the fat individual’s acceptance of a lower position in the socio-cultural hierarchy, which, as Bourdieu has noted (2000), allows governments to maintain control over the marginalised.

As argued by Jones et al (2010), cultural violence that legitimises structural violence, such as that against the fat individual, raises complex ethical issues. Viewers are ‘psychologised’ into hegemonic ideologies of corporality in which democratic platitudes are eradicated – for a ‘slim’ body is idealised as “desirable, acceptable and pleasurable” and the ‘fat’ body legitimised as “threatening, removable and shameful” (Kyrölä, 2014: 1-2).

 

Resistance to Structural Violence through Fat Activism

Through macro and micro level Fat Activism, fat individuals have actively resisted and renegotiated the pervasive structural violence they experience through British neoliberal governmentality and the cultural violence of televised space. ‘Activism’, is best conceptualised as the principal way in which, as Wacquant (2008) notes, a marginalised social group resists governmental state control, with aims of promoting social-political reform and improving their status and standing within the society in which they live.

Katz (2004) notes that activism used by marginalised social groups to renegotiate their experience of structural violence can take one of three forms. The marginalised social group may use ‘resilience activism’ to find “new and creative ways of surviving” (Cumbers et al, 2010: 60) their mistreatment within a socio-political system without active resistance. Alternatively, ‘reworking activism’, which seeks to make things better within the parameters of possibility as defined by the state (Foucault, 1975-76). Or lastly, ‘resistance activism’, which is fundamentally opposed to government control and focuses on elevated levels of disruption and protest that can be likened to radical revolutionary activism (Katz, 2004). The type of activism that marginalised social groups choose to undertake is often diverse. Different forms can be used simultaneously in both physical and virtual spaces depending on the ways in which activism is deployed, this deployment being highly dependent on the socio-political and economic climate in which the marginalised group resides.

Fat Activism – undertaken by ‘fat’ men and women termed ‘fat-liberation activists’ – is a form of ‘reworking activism’ enacted at the macro- and micro-political levels, which has been used to resist the structural violence enacted against the fat individual in virtual spaces. Rather than making fundamental changes to neoliberal governance, Fat Activism is a social movement that seeks to subtly re-work existing, hegemonic, anti-fat biases in neoliberal discourses through “alter[ing] the organisation but not the polarization of power relations” (Sparke, 2008: 2) between the neoliberal state and the fat individual, with the aim of improving their experience in everyday society. According to Gill (2010) ‘reworking activism’ re-writes governmental discourses in delicate ways and is a continuum of reactions against government subjugation that often indicates that the marginalised social group holds a post-structural view of the state – that governance is a ‘peopled’ organisation inextricably linked to everyday society. Thus, marginalised social groups attempt to renegotiate and resist structural violence through communication, rather than full-on disruptive activism.

On the macro-level, one way that fat activists are actively resisting their experience of structural violence is through the movement Health at Every Size (HAES, 2017). HAES seeks to renegotiate the unequal power relations between the neoliberal state and the fat body. Through the movement’s website, the ‘fat individual’ can join an online global community that seeks to create a virtual space that demystifies moralising discourses that condemn their size, with counter-evidence that ‘fatness’ should  not be a social taboo and, is in-fact, as much of a source of health as the ‘normatively’ designated body. Ahmed (2010) maintains macro level activism has enabled fat individuals to demonstrate they are not necessarily always victim to structural violence. Through activism these subjects hold significant power and collective agency with the potential to disrupt central hegemonic views surrounding the ‘happiness’ of an idealised weight, likening these ideas and ideals to the ‘kill-joys’ of neoliberal ideology.

At the heart of HAES, the movement argues that to be labelled ‘fat’ and nothing else is a significant social and psychological burden to the fat individual. In response, the movement makes a continued statement to celebrate size diversity and challenge accepted norms by advocating assumptions contrary to neoliberal discourses around their eating: eating in an attuned manner that values pleasure and self-acceptance. Fat individuals, regardless of their location or background can sign up to the cause, referred to as ‘the pledge’ on the website. HAES’s mission statement is to “advance social justice, create an inclusive and respectful community, and support people of all sizes in finding compassionate ways to take care of themselves” (HAES, 2017). This demonstrates how the movement takes a ‘humanitarian realist’ approach to activism (Rigby and Schlembach, 2013) in that it protests within the realms of the state, but in a way that successfully drives political reform by reworking neoliberal ideologies of ‘fatness’.

As argued by Bacon and Aphramor (2014), HAES is a great achievement for it helps “people shift their focus away from changing their size to enhancing their self-care behaviours” (Bacon and Aphramor, 2014: 28). Through the movement’s online presence, the fat individual has consequently – whether they are part of the HAES pledge or not – become part of a global fat community that is increasingly respected and gaining social and symbolic capital, thus, giving them a more ‘local’ and respected agential voice in Britain. The movement’s global outreach brings attention to the prejudicial stigma placed on the fat body in neoliberal Britain, which consequently incites extensive axis of inequality for their being (Bacon and Aphramor, 2014).

On the micro-level, Fat Activism also operates through virtualised space, but unlike at the macro-level, seeks to resist structural violence through the fat individual’s self-reform, or ‘transformation’ through ideas of self-care and body acceptance. An online podcast by Danish blogger Sofie Hagen entitled People Want to See Fat Bodies Dancing (Hagen, 2017) is an example of micro-level activism which allows the ‘fat individual’ to actively renegotiate their experience of structural violence through seeking to remove and/or change internalised notions of normativity that figure their size as ‘unworthy’ and ‘repugnant’.

On the 1-hour podcast, Hagen interviews academic and fat activist Charlotte Cooper in order to deliver tips on how to renegotiate one’s everyday stigmatization through standing up for oneself through the performative enactment of self-care. As a form of micro-level activism, Hagen and Cooper’s podcast echoes Žižek’s (1999) proclamation that to resist structural violence, one must attempt the ‘art of the impossible’ to change established societal parameters of what is considered ‘possible’. Their podcast is framed around the ‘art of the impossible’ as they create a virtual space in which the fat individual is celebrated, contrary to most virtual spaces, equipping the fat listener with bitesize strategies to make this a reality in their everyday.

The podcast highlights how through self-care – or, self-activism – the fat individual can significantly resist the felt effects of structural violence by reforming the way in which they internalise (or not) the prejudicial assumptions embedded in neoliberal discourse. Through self-care, Cooper informs Hagen, ‘fat individuals’ can be assertive and speak up for themselves internally and externally, as well as developing and honing their political interests. This strategy – continually explored throughout the episode – allows the fat listener to resist the impositions of neoliberal governmentality as they are provoked to question if their disgust toward their body is a self-formed judgement, or, an internalisation of neoliberal, normative state ideologies. Cooper encourages the fat listener, detailing:

Activism can be something as subtle as having a bad thought or thinking something that is not allowed . . . . [i.e. w]inking at somebody or having these very sorts of subtle moments that don’t have any materiality to them . . .  . The main thing is don’t become part of the ‘death star’, don’t do that, live, live, live (Hagen, 2017).

Both HAES, and Hagen’s (2017) podcast, highlight an interesting avenue of Fat Activism in contemporary society in which virtualised spaces – at both the macro and micro-level – are inciting fundamental changes to the geographies of structural violence enacted against the ‘fat individual’; producing mediums through which these subjects can instantly unite with a like-minded global community, becoming empowered objectors to their societal victimisation. This activism is often not loud, visible or disruptive but instead can be small micro-political acts such as being proud of one’s existence and reversing – or attempting to reverse – one’s internalisation of societal norms, rewriting the social stigma placed on one’s body. At the macro- and micro-level Fat Activism is therefore expanding geographical understandings of activism. It renders ‘activism’ to no longer be social-political change fixed to location, but instead to be dynamic forms of resistance by marginalised groups in spaces that are increasingly virtual as well as physical (Cooper, 2016).

It is paramount to therefore question the applicability of Foucault’s infamous assertion that humanity can never escape from systems of power and governmentality (Foucault, 1978 cited in Burchell et al 1991; Foucault, 1975-76). Foucault’s proclamation that neoliberal governmentality is a totalitarian mode of state control is challenged by the activities and agendas of Fat Activism, whereby the ‘fat individual’ and community at-large is developing agential voices and practices of resistance against governmental forms of control enacted in virtualised space. As Kerr (1999) notes, to adopt Foucault’s viewpoint that the citizen is forever a helpless victim of neoliberal governmentality risks and potentates a danger of internalizing and thus reproducing the top-down governmental power that Foucault so strongly despises.

 

Conclusion

Through a consideration of neoliberal governmentality as structural violence against the fat individual, it is clear that understandings of violence as an aggregate geographical process with a spectacle of visible characteristics must undoubtedly be challenged. This essay has endeavoured to illustrate that one must therefore conceptualise ‘violence’ more expansively at the micro-political level of personal experience, rather than a phenomenon distanced from the everyday, or one that solely involves the enactment of direct physical force.

The majority of violent experiences are embedded in our everyday geographies. Structural violence against the ‘fat individual’ – entrenched in normative neoliberal governmentalities ‘backed’ by and enacted through verbal, cultural and statistical representations – works to taint their bodies as inferior to that of the everyday (slim) citizen’s, which has come to be figured as the ‘desirable’, ‘normative’ body. Structural violence against the ‘fat individual’ in Britain is therefore habitually masked under the neoliberal, utilitarian rhetoric of ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’.

On the contrary, it is just as paramount to challenge the assumption that the fat individual and those marginalised by neoliberal governmentality are always and/or simply victims to its pervasive structural violence. For whilst the fat individual has largely become ‘docile’ in relation to pervasive forms of structural violence, this essay has encouraged one to acknowledge that through emergent activist agendas – such as Fat Activism – the subalternized ‘fat’ subject’s capacity to renegotiate their victimisation is expanded, primarily through a reworking of and anti-normative challenge to dominant neoliberal ideologies and their attendant forms of disciplinary power. As a micro-geographical process embedded in the mundane organisation of neoliberalism, structural violence is evidently ambiguous and inherently unstable, with it being continually open to change and renegotiation depending on the social-political context(s) in which it is enacted, the person(s) which it seeks to affect and the medium(s) through which resistance occurs and is articulated. As Springer et al (2016) note, neoliberalism in contemporary society has unquestionably “not produced greater peace, but often a ruinous encounter with violence” (Springer et al, 2016: 154); an encounter that has – evidently – disturbing ramifications for the ‘fat individual’ in neoliberal Britain.

 

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