Using Metaphors of Contagion: How Framing Obesity as ‘Epidemic’ Shapes Cultural and Medical Understandings of Noncommunicability and ‘Fatness’


medical anthropology
metaphors of contagion

How to Cite

Wristen, A. (2022). Using Metaphors of Contagion: How Framing Obesity as ‘Epidemic’ Shapes Cultural and Medical Understandings of Noncommunicability and ‘Fatness’. Pathways, 3(1), 43–51.


This paper explores the contestations regarding the use of the term ‘epidemic’ in obesity discourses. On one side, obesity studies are increasingly demonstrating links which suggest the condition is communicable, thus possibly warranting an ‘epidemic’ framework. On the other side–to which I position this paper–obesity remains understood as noncommunicable; therefore when the notion of ‘epidemic’ is employed, it is recognized to be metaphorical. Drawing on the works of critical scholars, this paper argues that the framing of obesity as ‘epidemic’ has more harmful consequences on prevailing cultural and medical understandings of fatness.



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