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Self-TransformationsFoucault, Ethics, and Normalized Bodies$
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Cressida J. Heyes

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195310535

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195310535.001.0001

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Foucault Goes to Weight Watchers (Redux)

Foucault Goes to Weight Watchers (Redux)

Chapter:
(p.63) 3 Foucault Goes to Weight Watchers (Redux)
Source:
Self-Transformations
Author(s):

Cressida J. Heyes (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195310535.003.0004

This chapter argues that weight-loss dieting is not only a quest for the ideal body, but also a process of working on the self, marketed and sold to women with particular resonance, that cleverly deploys the discourse self-care feminists have long encouraged. The Use of Pleasure, volume 2 of History of Sexuality, is remarkable for its section on dietetics, in which Michel Foucault details certain practices of the ancient Greeks and Romans with regard to regimen as “an art of living”. Contemporary weight-loss dieting both appropriates and debases the forms of rapport a soi Foucault identifies. This chapter supplements existing critical accounts of dieting, which typically rely on the central explanatory concepts either of “false consciousness” or of “docile bodies” to understand better its enabling moments. Such moments exemplify Foucault's thesis that the growth of capabilities occurs in tandem with the intensification of power relations. The author recounts her ten-month experience in participating in Weight Watchers — the largest and best known commercial weight-loss program in the world.

Keywords:   Michel Foucault, Weight Watchers, weight-loss dieting, feminism, self, co-optation, askesis, ideological captivity, aspectival captivity

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