Regulating bodies: cfp


Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal

Call for Papers:

Regulating Bodies in the ‘Obesity Era’: Ethical, Social, and Legal Perspectives


It is commonplace to note that we are experiencing an ‘obesity epidemic’ in developed countries such as the United States. A dramatically higher portion of the population counts as obese now than in previous decades, and many obese people are children. Both the causes and the effects of obesity are multiple and contested: weight is determined by a complicated cocktail of eating and exercise practices, genetics, and social and material pressures; the health risks associated with being obese or overweight are scientifically underdetermined. Obese bodies are loci for a variety of social meanings, and because of negative attitudes and structural disadvantages, obese people are socially vulnerable in a variety of ways. Furthermore, this vulnerability is deeply intertwined with vulnerabilities attaching to race, class, and age, as obesity rates and consequences vary along these lines.


Obesity rates have recently been and will likely increasingly be the target of a wide variety of policy and public health initiatives, from restricting legally available portion sizes, to workplace weight loss incentives, to banning vending machines in schools, to targeting mothers’ feeding choices with shame-based PSAs. Such initiatives inevitably raise tricky ethical and social questions. Any proposed intervention will be mired in issues such as the politics of blame, lifestyle regulation in the face of cultural pressures and social constraints, consumer and corporate freedom and paternalism, the ethics of urban planning, social determinants of health and co-traveling systematic inequalities, social perceptions of attractiveness, productivity, and character, ableism and disability rights, and more. At the same time, any proposed intervention will confront vexed scientific debates over what our public health goals should be and what will be effective in helping reach them.


The Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal solicits submissions for an upcoming special issue that will explore the regulation of bodies in the face of the normative and scientific complexities raised by the ‘obesity epidemic.’ Articles that address ethical, legal, and social issues in body regulation are welcome. This could include formal regulation at the level of policy, or informal regulation, such as social practices of discipline and normalization. Articles that engage a feminist, anti-racist, or anti-ableist perspective, or otherwise focus on critiquing systematic oppression and inequality, are especially (although not exclusively) encouraged.


Instructions: Papers should be between 6000 and 8000 words and prepared for anonymous review. The deadline for submission is March 1, 2014, with a tentative publication date of September 2014. Please use the standard KIEJ submission process, but indicate in your cover letter that you wish your paper to be considered for this special issue. Please also indicate whether you are interested in having your paper considered for publication in a regular issue of the journal, should we be unable to fit it in the special issue. Questions may be directed to Rebecca Kukla, Editor-in-Chief, at

Transgender Day of Remembrance: Two Galleries

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance, a date set aside in 1999 in memory of the murder the previous year of transwoman Rae Hester.

Fourteen years later, the violence continues. According to HuffPost Gay Voices,

This past year 238 trans* people were murdered worldwide, according to Transgender Europe’s Transgender Murder Project. And these are just a fraction of the real number of deaths, because many go unreported, are not designated as hate crimes, or are not recognized as deaths of trans* people, because the media frequently reports birth-assigned names and sexes without honoring the true chosen names and gender identities of the victims.

And, as is well known, the rates of non-fatal assaults and suicides among trans* people are likewise disastrously high.


Here are two photo galleries to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance.

The first, from features photos and discussions of some of the trans* people who were murdered in 2013. It is a sobering reminder of the importance of this day of remembrance.

The second, much more uplifting, gallery, “16 Beautiful Portraits Of Humans Who Happen to Be Trans,” is part of PolicyMic’s series in honour of Transgender Day of Remembrance 2013.

Adrienne Asch, 1947-2013

We are very sorry to hear of the death of Dr. Adrienne Asch, the Edward and Robin Milstein Professor of Bioethics at Yeshiva University and professor of epidemiology and population health and family and social medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Adrienne Asch’s Ph.D. was in Social Psychology, and those of us in Philosophy who relied on her excellent work in reproductive choice and disability studies further appreciate the extent to which her B.A. in Philosophy from Swarthmore in 1969 seemed to influence her ethical and critical thinking throughout her career.

At Feminist Philosophers it is customary to mention one’s connection to a particular work of a philosopher for which one writes a notice of death.  I am not an expert, so I will content myself with noting that just today, I referred my students of utilitarian thinking to Adrienne Asch’s arguments in “Prenatal diagnosis and selective abortion: a challenge to practice and policy:”

Professionals should reexamine negative assumptions about the quality of life with prenatally detectable impairments and should reform clinical practice and public policy to improve informed decision making and genuine reproductive choice. Current data on children and families affected by disabilities indicate that disability does not preclude a satisfying life. Many problems attributed to the existence of a disability actually stem from inadequate social arrangements that public health professionals should work to change. This article assumes a pro-choice perspective but suggests that unreflective uses of prenatal testing could diminish, rather than expand, women’s choices. This critique challenges the view of disability that lies behind the social endorsement of such testing and the conviction that women will or should end their pregnancies if they discover that the fetus has a disabling trait.