From the Quest for Beauty to Fat-Shaming

Hybrid event
Friday 24th February 2023 (11:45-14:00)

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Amelie Keyser Verreault 24 Feb 2023

The University of Nottingham's Taiwan Studies Programme presents a talk by Dr. Amélie Keyser-Verreault, resident fellow at the European Research Center on Contemporary Taiwan at Tübingen University.

Lunch 11.45 am-12.30 pm, talk 12.30pm to 2 pm,

Room B07 Hemsley Building, University Park, Hybrid event

From the Quest for Beauty to Fat-Shaming

By focusing on both women's intense quest for beauty and the social stigma around female corpulence, this presentation aims to build a holistic view of the politics of desirability in Taiwan. On the one hand, the first part of the presentation focuses on the phenomenon of the valorization of a hegemonic beauty canon, the zhenmei (very thin, white-skinned, wide-eyed, cute and docile women), and on the relations between body embellishments, local gender norms and the dynamics of subjectivation that such valorization implies in Taiwan. On the other hand, the second part analyses the various and multiple instances of size-based body discrimination that many women experience in their daily lives. It also documents the related and growing movement against fat shaming in contemporary Taiwan and examines the local appropriation of the international movement of fat activism in a non-Euro-American context.

I argue that the quest for extreme thinness is the central piece that connects these opposing yet interrelated phenomena, as slenderness is the most important component of the beauty ideal and the valorization of thinness creates and deepen bodily size discrimination. This analysis is the result of several large-scale research projects from 2014 to 2022 and based on over 100 in-depth interviews with Taiwanese women and gender minorities.

I mobilize the concept of "human capital" and “entrepreneur of the self” in Foucault's analysis of neoliberalism and contend that these interconnected phenomena should be better understood from a neoliberal rationality perspective: namely, that zhenmei embody the aspirational figure of a successful "aesthetic entrepreneur," while corpulent women and gender minorities are viewed by society as "failed entrepreneurs" of their appearance and health.

About the speaker

Amélie Keyser-Verreault is a resident fellow at the European Research Center on Contemporary Taiwan at Tübingen University. She holds a doctoral degree in sociocultural anthropology from Laval University (Canada). Dr Keyser-Verreault research focus on body politics, gender and sexualities with an emphasis on neoliberalism, beauty politics, maternity, aging, and resistance in East Asia. She also has a deep interest in qualitative art-based, decolonial and intersectional methodologies.

At Tübingen University, Dr Keyser-Verreault is the lead of the Taiwan as Pioneer (TAP) research project and her TAP project focus on the modernization and institutionalization of postnatal care, digital parenting and LGBTQ+ parenting in Taiwan. Her work has been published in academic journals such as Ethnography, European Journal of Cultural Studies, Feminism & Psychology, Taiwan Journal of Women’s and Gender Studies (女學學誌), Taiwan Journal of Anthropology (台灣人類學刊) and the International Journal of Taiwan Studies.

This webinar will be chaired and moderated by Dr. Chun-yi Lee, Director of Taiwan Studies Program, University of Nottingham 


Taiwan Research Hub

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD