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date: 29 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the rhetorical and ethical structure of our public communications and representations concerning food, eating, health, and obesity. Food messages in our culture are deeply contradictory and tension-ridden, leaving us with no “right” way to eat. Moreover, eating practices are routinely portrayed as having characterological significance, so there is no right kind of person to be, when it comes to food. Food messaging follows a broadly pornographic logic, in which images of shame, sin, disgust, temptation, risk, safety, perversion, pleasure, and recklessness are mixed together in a fundamentally incoherent way. Furthermore, these meanings are socially and materially scaffolded in important ways; one cannot just use willpower to ignore or overcome them but must cope with them as one navigates the world. Thus, people are left in a practically and ethically untenable situation when it comes to eating.

Keywords: health communication, shame, seduction, character, eating, obesity

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