Fat, Black, and Ugly: The Semiotic Production of Prodigious Femininities

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Taking up the trinomial “fat, Black, and ugly” as a discomforting point of departure, this piece explores several ways fatness and Blackness are discursively constructed as social comorbidities for feminine people and examines how this discourse affects lived experience. It considers how the discursive field in which “fat, Black, and ugly” dwells traverses temporal and social scales: from early twentieth-century science discourse to recent social media discourse, and from state policies to inner voices. Inspired by Gina Athena Ulysse’s rasanblaj approach, the analysis uses a combination of personal narrative/autoethnography and discourse analysis, and draws from sociocultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, Black feminist studies, African feminist studies, and fat studies. I convene these fields and methodologies in an effort to think about a semiotic collusion between fatness and Blackness that expels certain subjects from legible and legitimate humanness and value in an anti-Black anthroposphere—or, via the illuminations of Hortense Spillers, that renders them prodigious flesh that prevails in the beyond.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)12-28
Number of pages17
JournalTransforming Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Blackness
  • fat studies
  • gender
  • race
  • semiotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology


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