Date Published: 
October 23, 2015

Dr. Heather Brown, W+GRA Executive Director, will present a paper called “There’s always stomach on the table and then I gotta write!”: Physical Space, Body Consciousness, and Learning in Fat College Women Learners at the upcoming National Women's Studies Association annual conference on precarity. Brown's paper, part of a larger project exploring the lived experiences of fat women learners at the undergraduate level, analyzes what fat college women students say about how their interactions with physical classroom space affect their experiences as learners. According to Brown, the participants in her study felt most keenly the interactions of their bodies with their experiences as learners when they were in the classroom. Bodies, how much space their bodies took up, and whether their bodies fit in the space allotted to them or could move through that space without causing a disruption occupied a significant portion of our interviews. In addition to physical pain and other practical problems of not fitting into the defined spaces of desks, participants experienced feeling that they are bodies watched and judged by others, first, and students, second. This preoccupation with their bodies created an intense level of body consciousness that severely impacted their class participation level and damaged their sense of themselves as being competent learners.  Brown's paper is part of a panel called "Spilling Over: Fat Bodies’ Refusal to be Contained," which also includes scholars from University of Wisconsin Fond du Lac, Texas Woman's University, Salem College, and California State University San Marcos.  

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