Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Russell-Mayhew, S., Estefan, A., Moules, N.J., Lefebvre, D., Morhun, J.M., Saunders, J.F., Wong, K., Myre, M.
The optics of weight: expert perspectives from the panopticon and synopticon (2022) Psychology and Health

DOI: 10.1080/08870446.2022.2117810

Objective: That we all weigh something is a fact of life, yet the material reality of weight is refracted through multiple layers of surveillance revealing contradictions in experience and understanding, depending on one’s vantage point. We explored the complexities of weight with the specific aim of furthering understanding of this multifaceted surveillance.

Methods and Measures: We used hermeneutics, the philosophy and practice of interpretation, as the method of inquiry. Ten experts by experience and seven professional experts participated in interviews, which were audio- recorded, transcribed, and analyzed. Interpretations were developed through group discussions among the eight authors and reiterative writing.

Results: Using the metaphor of optics, we demonstrate how the interplay of the panopticon (the few watching the many) and synopticon (the many watching the few) help us gain a deeper understanding of weight through “fitting in,” being “captured by numbers,” “dieting: the tyrannic tower,” and “the male gaze.”

Conclusion: Monitoring and judging body weight have become so normative in Western society that “weight watching” practices are synonymous with good citizenship and moral character. This study offers insight about how weight is conceptualized in personal and professional contexts, with implications for body image, dieting, eating disorders, public health, and weight bias.

Author Keywords
Foucault; Gadamer; hermeneutics; panopticon; synopticon; weight

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: