Materially as well as metaphorically, fat is seemingly ubiquitous in Donald Trump’s America. Rather than simply a rude comment to make about someone’s appearance or capacity for self-control, the word refers to a form of matter and style of metaphor that helps structure divisions between America and the world, as well as among Americans themselves. To support this claim, this article outlines a broad cultural imagination relating to fat—a fat imaginary—that structures common global perceptions of Americans and America, as well as assessments of Trump himself. With sources traceable to traditional agricultural motifs, metaphors relating to fat often connote processes of fattening that evoke ideas about consumption, as well as devouring and animality. To see how the fat imaginary informs contemporary political discourses, the article probes the “fat American” as a consuming figure on the world stage, as well as media representations of Trump as a devouring monster.
The Fat Imaginary in Trump's America: Matter, Metaphor, and Animality
Christopher E. Forth is Dean’s Professor of Humanities and professor of history at the University of Kansas. A cultural historian of gender, sexuality, the body, and the senses, he is concerned with how perceptions and experiences of the body are situated in different social and cultural locations and has become increasingly interested in exploring embodiment, materiality, and the senses in historical context. The author or editor of twelve books, most recently Fat: A Cultural History of the Stuff of Life (2019), his current project is tentatively titled “Life Is Elsewhere: Feeling Alive in the Modern World.”
Christopher E. Forth; The Fat Imaginary in Trump's America: Matter, Metaphor, and Animality. Cultural Politics 1 November 2020; 16 (3): 387–407. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/17432197-8593578
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