The Department of Sociology presents

"Deadly Appetites: The Racial Biopolitics of 'Black Women’s Diseases,' 19th-21st Centuries"
with Sabrina Strings, Professor, UC Berkeley

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
12:00-1:30 p.m.
Social Science Plaza B, Room 4250

Recent studies appearing in the medical and popular press have decried the high rate of obesity (defined as a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or greater) among Black women, declaiming that “obesity kills.” Remarkably, this alarm continues to grow in tandem with the rising number of medical researchers who demonstrate that a BMI>=30 does not necessarily lead to poor health outcomes, and who attempt to revise or refute the current standard of obesity. In this presentation, Strings examines the curious nature of the medical discourse condemning the “obesity epidemic” among Black women. She argues that rather than being solely, or principally, rooted in the (conflicting) medical findings linking BMI to health status, the obesity discourse is the latest innovation in the familiar medical trope of the “sensual” Black woman as “deadly.” The "Black female sensualism" trope is a consistent feature of the racial biopolitics of population control, and has been deployed within the medical field since the 19th century. Further, the discourse of Black female sensualism within the obesity epidemic intensifies the age-old anxiety surrounding Black women’s purported excesses, marking them at once deadly, and social dead weight, or a chronic burden to self, family, and society. The implications of this framing will be discussed.

For further information, please contact Ekua Arhin, 949-824-2575, or Hannah Absher,  949-824-6800.


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