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Fat-positive worldmaking in the body positive movement: queering, decolonizing, intersecting




Otis, Hailey Nicole, author
Dunn, Thomas R., advisor
Gibson, Katie, committee member
Marx, Nick, committee member
DeMirjyn, Maricela, committee member

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This dissertation uses a queer rhetorical approach augmented by a critical/cultural sensibility and autoethnographic performance to examine how body positive activists, influencers, and public figures carve out moments for fat-positive (queer) worldmaking within the online body positive movement. In particular, this project explores how body positivity shifts contextually from a set of depoliticized philosophies around self-love and positive body image to moments of worldmaking via radical body politics. The primary goal of this project is to examine how the body positive movement carves out possibilities for positive representation, humanization, and liberation for fat and otherwise non-normative bodies. To pursue this goal, I engage three distinct case studies of fat-positive queer worldmaking within body positivity after situating this project as joining and contributing to broader scholarly conversations around embodied social movement rhetoric as well as disciplinary perspectives on queer worldmaking. The first case study explores how two body positive social media influencers, @Sassy_latte and Melissa Gibson, use Instagram posts and the digital radio show format to develop radical, fat activist body politics around the notion of "body justice." The second case study focuses on hip-hop artist Lizzo and her role in the changing nature of body positivity in the current moment, analyzing how her social media, lyrics, and music videos engage in fat-positive queer worldmaking that recenters fat, Black femme bodies. The final case study takes on the character of autoethnographic performance in which I center my own body, my own journey with body positivity and fat activism, as well as grapple with the relationship between my role as a critic and my role as part of the rhetoric I analyze. In and through these case studies, I ultimately argue that it is through particular kinds of rhetorical labor—namely decolonial, intersectional, and queer forms—that body positive rhetors make possible moments of fat-positive queer worldmaking.


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decolonial rhetoric
fat studies
body positivity
queer theory


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