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New Zealand conference exploring fatness in society goes global


Sonya Renee Taylor

Keynote speaker Sonya Renee Taylor


The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a fat studies conference - an emerging field that confronts mainstream ideas about fatness - to go online.

The third Fat Studies New Zealand conference was scheduled to take place on the Auckland campus of Massey University on June 18-19, 2020. Instead the conference will now be hosted online during a three-week period, starting June 18.

The previous fat studies conferences have been well received and established New Zealand as a global leader in fat studies scholarship, says conference organiser Dr Cat Pausé, a senior lecturer at Massey’s Institute of Education and well-known New Zealand-based fat studies scholar and activist.

“The purpose of this year’s conference, Fat Studies: Past, Present, Futures, is to reflect on the history of the relatively new discipline, consider the present state of the scholarship, and imagine what the future might hold,” Dr Pausé says.

The keynote speakers are Professor Esther Rothblum, editor-at-large of the Fat Studies journal and Sonya Renee Taylor, founder of The Body is Not An Apology, a digital media and education company promoting radical self-love and body empowerment as the foundational tool for social justice and global transformation. Renee Taylor is currently in New Zealand as an inaugural Edmund Hilary Fellow.

Renee Taylor’s keynote is entitled, “Fat black futures: Visioning a world beyond fatphobia and anti-blackness”. She notes, “as we seem to be moving into a greater collective awareness regarding the systems and structures of oppression it feels prescient that we address the experiences of fat people, as fatness intersects with nearly every axis of marginalization.

“There is much to be illuminated in this season and I believe this event is part of that essential light. The Fat Studies conference is a necessary endeavour and I am excited for what it will deepen in all of our pursuits for justice.”

Fat Studies New Zealand

Fat Studies New Zealand 2020 conference


Keynote speakers

Another thirty speakers from ten countries will round out the three-week programme. Each week, a keynote and a set of panels will be available on the password protected site. Social media events across Facebook, Twitter, and Zoom will allow opportunities for the more than 300+ attendees to engage in real time discussion and networking.

Topics scholars will discuss include weight stigma and discrimination in Australia, the genetification of fatness, public health ethics and weight stigma, and embracing fatness as self-care in the era of Trump.

Professor Rothblum says hosting the conference online has made it accessible to delegates and speakers who would not be able to attend because of the COVID-19 and travel restrictions.

“Putting on this important conference virtually allows fat people and their allies around the globe to participate. The field of fat studies critically examines society attitudes about body weight and appearance, and advocates equality for all people with respect to body size.

“Fat studies scholars ask why we oppress people who are fat and who benefits from that oppression. At a time when many of us are sheltering in place, it is delightful that we can get together virtually and throw our weight around,” Professor Rothblum says.

Registration remains open www.fsnz.online

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