Obesity surgery and the management of excess: exploring the body multiple

Sociol Health Illn. 2012 Jan;34(1):1-15. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2011.01358.x. Epub 2011 May 6.


Drawing on ethnographic data gathered through observations and interviews at a surgical weight management clinic in a large hospital, this article argues that while the core values governing the provision of obesity surgery (obesity = ill health; obesity surgery = weight loss; weight loss = improved health and cost savings) can be seen as governing the clinical encounter, the singularity of these collective equations reflects neither the complexity of the patient experience of obesity surgery nor the extent to which the 'war on obesity' itself does not adhere strictly to those principles. Drawing on Annemarie Mol's concept of the body multiple, and focusing on three different forms of excess (excess weight, excess consumption and excess skin) that emerged in the course of the study, this article argues that the rationalised singularity of obesity that is enacted in the obesity surgery clinic risks obscuring the uncertainties inherent to those practices and the moral judgements and values that are ultimately inextricable from them.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Bariatric Surgery / psychology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Diabetes Mellitus / etiology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / psychology*
  • Obesity / surgery*
  • Prejudice
  • Sociology, Medical
  • State Medicine
  • United Kingdom
  • Weight Loss