Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


The Fattening House: A Narrative Analysis of the Big, Black and Beautiful Body Subjectivity Constituted On Large African American Women

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Communication Studies

First Advisor

John T. Warren (Committee Chair)

Second Advisor

Khani Begum (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Sung-Yeon Park (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Thomas Mascaro (Committee Member)


This study examines the ways in which the binaries of a constitutive subjectivity and social reality constrain the identities of large African American women. This constitutive subjectivity is called the Big, Black and Beautiful Body (B4) narrative. The B4 narrative positions large African American women as having high body esteem regardless of current social messages that promote thin body image standards. To explain the operation and power of the B4 narrative, the fattening house, an old Nigerian custom, is used as a metaphor to demonstrate the house's roots to past racist stereotypes. This dissertation employs narrative analysis to critically access twenty in-depth interviews of large African American women and situate their lived experiences within the metaphorical fattening house. Findings reveal these women simultaneously resist and accept the B4 subjectivity and struggle between the binary of the B4 and their social reality. As such, the constitutive B4 subjectivity constrains their lives through four prominent narratives presented here as rooms within the fattening house. This study suggests large African American females constantly negotiate their identity to fit within the B4 subjectivity, although their social reality is not the same. It offers insight into how the large African American female subjectivity is overlooked and the B4 narrative functions to uphold past racist conceptions of black womanhood.