The political potential of affective collectivity – exploring Danish fat activism on Instagram

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On july 14th, 11 Danish fat women and one fat man met at Moesgård beach in the Eastern part of Jylland, Denmark. Some of them had never met before. Others knew each other from the year before when a similar event had taken place. The women and the men took off their clothes until there was nothing left but their underwear. They put on make-up, glitter and fixed their hair. And then they started taking pictures of their bodies.

This paper explores the affective practices of a group of Danish fat activists on Instagram. With point of departure in feminist approactes to affect (Ahmed 2004, Hemmings 2012), digital activism (Mendes 2015, Baer 2016, Mendes et al. 2019), and everyday life (Felski 2000, Pink 2012, Highfield 2016) we argue that the Danish ’fatosphere’ (Pausé 2015, Lupton 2018, p. 82) form the basis for a wider political movement that challenges conventional norms of the female body. We ask: How do the affective practices of the Danish ‘fatosphere’ engender feminist solidarity and radical social change in relation to Danish body politics. And furthermore, how do these practices spark new discussions concerning analytical definitions of activism in a digital age. The study from which this paper draws its ethnographic material is, thus, not solely focused on intentional or overt activist practices. Instead, we investigate how practices of solidarity and care in opposition to prevailing body norms become political, and how the movement from individual experience to collective critique (and possibly political chance) is, at once, motivated by and the result of what we refer to as affective collectivity.

Not all of our informants identify as activists themselves, which may partly be a consequence of internal discussions within the Danish fat positive community concerning what defines ‘fat activism’ and how to navigate this field on social media platforms. However, for analytical purposes, we use the terms ‘activist’ and ‘activism’ because the practices of our informants have political potentials that reach beyond the actors involved. As a consequence, this paper simultaneously asks what it means to be an activist, and what has come to define activism as practice and concept? We seek to answer these questions by discussing the ways in which communality arises out of affective practices in this arena, and how such practices can be understood as feminist everyday activism. We take a clue to our definition of everyday activism from Roger Silverstone, who maintains that online practices (such as the ones we analyse) are not separate from our material lives (Silverstone 2007, p. 32).

We therefore approach this study via an understanding of online activity as intimately present in the daily lives of our informants – and as providing potential frames for their understanding of their own bodies

and social relations. And furthermore, that these frames may form the basis for collective action – activism.Because our study is in its early stages, this paper is a first attempt at exploring this field via a case study. We have selected this from our preliminary empirical findings. The case which we analyse is an event – that is, it is set outside of the everyday life of our informants. However, we use it as a catalyst for understanding 1) how daily interactions between informants on Instagram have formed the basis for the event, and 2) how the event becomes interwoven into everyday practice by referring back to it in Instagram-posts, and 3) how the collectivity of the event creates collective frames of understanding, affect and community, which has effects not only in the lives of our informants, but also in a wider feminist fat(activist) community.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateSep 2020
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2020
EventFutures of Feminist & Queer Solidarities : Connectivity, Materiality, and Mobility in a Digitalized World - University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
Duration: 30 Sep 202030 Sep 2020


ConferenceFutures of Feminist & Queer Solidarities
LocationUniversity of Gothenburg
Internet address

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