School for Social Work
This qualitative study was designed using flexible research methods to explore the experiences and beliefs of overweight individuals in a cultural context. Two research questions were undertaken: the first being Do overweight individuals experience a subculture?, and the second exploring How do overweight individuals' experiences of oppression relate to whether they have a subculture or not? As an analysis of the literature revealed, the overweight population's oppression and stigmatization is often unrecognized within our greater society. With millions of Americans being classified as overweight this population is increasing in number, warranting further notice within social research. This exploratory study includes findings based on 12 semi-structured interviews with individuals who self identified as overweight. Each participant shared about his/her life experiences and beliefs based on their overweight identity. Questions regarding social relationships and encounters with oppression offered a more complex understanding of their dynamic experiences and were used in analysis to draw conclusions to the research questions. The findings showed the potential for an overweight subculture to exist, however the small sample size lacked in-group participation. These promising findings appear to be linked to internalized oppression, and have set the groundwork for future studies with a larger sample size.
MacDonald, Heather A., "A question of culture for overweight individuals" (2007). Masters Thesis, Smith College, Northampton, MA.