Publication Details

Burrows, L., Leahy, D. and Wright, J. (2019) Cruel optimism? Socially critical perspectives on the obesity assemblage, in R. Pringle, G. Gerdin & H. Larsson (eds) Critical research in sport, health and physical education: How to make a difference. London: Routledge.

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Socially critical scholars in Health and Physical Education (HPE) have been raising questions about the ethical, moral and social consequences of charging schools with the burden of ameliorating an ‘obesity’ problem for years, yet there is little sign of any substantial shift in the thinking that drives obesity strategies and policies in and around schools. Drawing on exemplars from our own and others’ practice, we interrogate the extent to which socially critical obesity work, and post-structural work, in particular, can contribute to new understandings of the ‘obesity assemblage’. Can our own repetitive aspirations to disrupt dominant discourses be regarded as yet another exemplar of ‘cruel optimism’ or can a flourishing body of critical enquiry actually do something both for young people in the context of health and physical education and for cultural understandings more widely?