Explaining the Failure of an Obesity Intervention: Combining Bourdieu’s Symbolic Violence and the Foucault’s Microphysics of Power to Reconsider State Interventions

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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This paper explains the failure of an obesity intervention funded by a Carol M. White U.S. Department of Education grant which created a three way partnership between middle schools in a poor largely Latino school district, the local University, and local after-school care providers. This paper assesses the project and situates it theoretically using Foucault’s microphysics of power and Bourdieu’s concepts of capital to analyze the refusal of most students and teachers to engage in the program and the standardized testing required by the state. We further articulate a new form of Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic violence based on position in the consumer hierarchy. We conclude with a critique of grant mechanisms as a means of addressing health issues, and situate the obesity epidemic as a social construction that perpetuates inequality and discourses of power.

The authors are with Department of Psychology/Sociology, Cal Poly Pomona Pomona, CA.

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