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Forming fat identities

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Title
Forming fat identities
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Jaffe
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Karen
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Karen Jaffe
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Carr
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Deborah
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Deborah Carr
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chair
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Eviatar Zerubavel
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Horwitz
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Allan
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Advisory Committee
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Allan Horwitz
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John
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John Worobey
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Rutgers University
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degree grantor
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Graduate School - New Brunswick
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theses
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2008
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2008-05
Language
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English
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electronic
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ix, 205 pages
Abstract
Using data from a large national sample and 40 in-depth qualitative interviews, I explore how fat identities are formed. To understand this process, I argue one must deconstruct it into both the tangible trait around which the identity is formed (overweight) and the social meaning this trait symbolizes (fat). I conceptualize a fat identity as learned, trying, and all encompassing. It is learned via exposure to messages about weight, trying because of the physical and social challenges being overweight poses, and all encompassing because it permeates all experiences. Based upon these three criteria, I argue that fat identities exist on a sliding continuum.
I found many factors to define the length of one's climb to the fat threshold. This threshold designates the point at which fatness becomes an integral part of one's self concept. Present and past physical weight helps determine one's initial placement on the continuum. However, race and gender help to determine where on the continuum the threshold is placed.
Moreover, I found the physical and social changes that come with aging play an important role in one's slide up and down the fat continuum. Older people are more likely to be concerned about health conditions; younger people are more concerned about the visible and social aspects of being fat. Finally, although I did not find evidence to support my hypothesis that discrimination forms fat identities, I did find that experiencing discrimination strengthens fat identities.
I conclude by calling for future research that follows the model put forth here. By looking at identities as an interaction between a physical trait and a social identity, researchers will be better equipped to understand identity formation, and how to alleviate the hardships involved with possessing a stigmatized identity. I conclude with suggestions for educating the public about the health implications of obesity while decreasing the stigma surrounding fat. I suggest using culturally sensitive plans designed around the specific needs of the diverse demographic of which the United States is comprised.
Note (type = degree)
Ph.D.
Note (type = bibliography)
Includes bibliographical references (p. 189-203).
Subject (ID = SUBJ1); (authority = RUETD)
Topic
Sociology
Subject (ID = SUBJ2); (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
Obesity
Subject (ID = SUBJ3); (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
Obesity--Social aspects
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Graduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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rucore19991600001
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http://hdl.rutgers.edu/1782.2/rucore10001600001.ETD.17331
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ETD_889
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Identifier (type = doi)
doi:10.7282/T3251JJM
Genre (authority = ExL-Esploro)
ETD doctoral
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Rights

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The author owns the copyright to this work.
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Open
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Karen Jaffe
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Affiliation
Rutgers University. Graduate School - New Brunswick
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I hereby grant to the Rutgers University Libraries and to my school the non-exclusive right to archive, reproduce and distribute my thesis or dissertation, in whole or in part, and/or my abstract, in whole or in part, in and from an electronic format, subject to the release date subsequently stipulated in this submittal form and approved by my school. I represent and stipulate that the thesis or dissertation and its abstract are my original work, that they do not infringe or violate any rights of others, and that I make these grants as the sole owner of the rights to my thesis or dissertation and its abstract. I represent that I have obtained written permissions, when necessary, from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis or dissertation and will supply copies of such upon request by my school. I acknowledge that RU ETD and my school will not distribute my thesis or dissertation or its abstract if, in their reasonable judgment, they believe all such rights have not been secured. I acknowledge that I retain ownership rights to the copyright of my work. I also retain the right to use all or part of this thesis or dissertation in future works, such as articles or books.
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