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Confessions of the flesh and biopedagogies: discursive constructions of obesity on Nip/Tuck
  1. G Rail1,
  2. M Lafrance2
  1. 1
    Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  2. 2
    Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Montreal, QC, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Geneviève Rail, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University, 1455 de Maisonneuve Blvd W, Montreal, QC, Canada H3G 1M8; gen.rail{at}


Informed by the work of Michel Foucault, the authors discuss the Nip/Tuck episode entitled “Momma Boone” and how it discursively constructs “obesity”. They show how this popular media text can be understood as a crystallisation of the dominant discourse surrounding fat bodies. In the process, how the episode can be seen as a “biopedagogy” that instructs its viewers in how to think and feel about the fat body is examined. Foucault’s formulation of the confessional is seen to be useful to theorise the ways in which biopedagogy leads subjects to believe and ultimately take part in processes leading to salvation. It is argued that in this Nip/Tuck episode, biopedagogy functions in and through Momma Boone’s “confessions of the flesh”, that is, confessions aimed at revealing her obese body so that it can be rescued, rehabilitated and saved. Momma Boone’s salvation is shown to require three stages: first, the “confession” of obesity; second, the conversion to the “truth” of the “dominant obesity discourse”; and third, the codification of a “new life” for the obese subject. In the end, it is argued that since it is represented as abject, monstrous and out of control, Momma Boone’s body is made to inspire fear and panic in so far as it provides constructed “evidence” regarding the consequences of the obese subject’s failure to convert to the truth of obesity discourse.

  • Obesity
  • Confessions
  • Biopedagogy
  • Foucault
  • Nip/Tuck
  • Cultural studies
  • Popular media
  • sociology
  • Women’s health

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  • Funding Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.

  • See Editorial, p 66

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