Fat Research

I am an experienced researcher, working primarily with qualitative methodologies. My main areas of interest involve fat activist community and culture.


I earned a Master’s degree in 1994 and a PhD in 2012. Versions of my dissertation and thesis were published as ‘Fat & Proud: The Politics of Size’ and ‘Fat Activism: A Radical Social Movement’ respectively. My academic notes and research will soon be available for public use through my 33Archive. Meanwhile, find out more about my books and scholarly writing on fat.

The Para-Academy and Research Justice

These are two major influences on how I approach my scholarship. The Para-Academy is a critical approach to higher education and scholarship within and beyond the bounds of the university system. I am one of the contributors to The Para-Academic Handbook.

Wardrop, A. and Withers, D. M., eds. (2014) The Para-Academic Handbook: A Toolkit for making-learning-creating-acting, Bristol: HammerOn Press. Open Access Download Available online: http://hammeronpress.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/PHA_Final.pdf (.pdf, 5.1mb)

Research Justice is a methodological model that has emerged in recent years. The premise is that research is political and can be used as a tool for liberating communities.

Cooper, C. (2013) Nothing About Us Without Us: Fat People and Research Justice. Birmingham University: Weight Stigma. 16 May. Read a report of the day.

Research Projects

A Queer and Trans Fat Activist Timeline (2010-present)

Most people are unaware that there are long and rich traditions associated with fat activism. This multi-dimensional project records and develops community-based fat activist histories.
A Queer and Trans Fat Activist Timeline

No More Stitch-Ups! Developing Media Literacy Through Fat Activist Community Research (2014)

This is a piece of independent research that builds on the expertise of fat activist community to develop strategies for handling media fatphobia. It is very common for fat activists to get stitched-up, or manipulated negatively, by the media in the West. Media makers use a number of unethical techniques to undermine people. The effect of this can be traumatising, and people get burned out and stop engaging with media. Activists have some strategies for resisting media abuse but generally have low expectations about anything good coming from it. Many social repercussions arise from widespread media dismissal of alternative voices concerning fat, and this paper proposes some potential tactics for change. This work draws on Research Justice values, is free and available to anyone who wants to read it or make use of it via its Creative Commons licence.
No More Stitch-Ups! Developing Media Literacy Through Fat Activist Community Research (.pdf, 270kb). The report also exists as a blog post.

Rainbow Health Ontario (2012-2013)

I was the lead writer and researcher for a series of fact sheets about body weight, eating and exercise for a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans community health organisation based in Toronto. I used a Health At Every Size framework. These fact sheets are shared with thousands of health and service providers, researchers and policy makers across Ontario.

Economic and Social Research Council: Fat Studies and HAES Seminars (2009-2011)

I was part of a group of people who applied for and were awarded a grant by the ESRC, a government funding body in the UK. We produced a series of scholarly mini-conferences, the first major ongoing expression of Fat Studies in the UK, that were free to attend and open to all. I was responsible for the third event, which focused on fat activism.
ESRC Fat Studies and HAES Seminars