The Weight of the Word: Knowing Silences in Obesity Research

Megan Warin, Jessica Gunson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)


    In this article, we examine the ethical and methodological tensions entailed in doing qualitative research in obesity studies. Framing our own embodied engagements through critical social theory, we consider how cultural meanings associated with obesity are silenced and negotiated in the research process. This negotiation is fraught with linguistic and corporeal challenges, beginning with the decision to use (or not use) the word obesity in research materials. Obesity is a visible stigma, and we argue that silencing language does not erase the tacit judgments that accompany discursive categorization. It is in a broader context of power relations that we examine the relationship between researcher and participant bodies and the ways in which collective knowingness about fat bodies underpins methodological engagement. The simultaneous presence and absence of obesity have a significant impact on the research process, in shaping both participants' experiences and the researcher's actions and interpretations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1686-1696
    Number of pages11
    JournalQualitative Health Research
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


    • embodiment / bodily experiences
    • obesity / overweight
    • power / empowerment
    • reflexivity
    • relationships


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