The University of Chicago News Office
Feb. 21, 2002 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

What makes poor people fat and rich people thin?

At an upcoming conference at the University of Chicago, researchers will investigate why obesity is now a bigger threat to poor people than starvation in the United States, and is growing in danger across the world. As scientists declare a “global epidemic of fat,” the University’s Center for Gender Studies will host the Obesity and Poverty Conference on Friday and Saturday, March 1 and 2, to address the sometimes surprising cultural and medical reasons why the poor in post-industrial nations are now more likely than the rich to be dangerously overweight. This interdisciplinary conference will bring together doctors, scientists and humanists to analyze a paradoxical new world situation.

Participants will debate the connections between fat, economics and human rights, explore the cultural patterns behind weight, and show how obesity affects children (the ones most in danger of obesity in developing nations), and what can be done to treat it. The conference runs Friday, March 1, from noon to 5 p.m. at the Franke Institute for the Humanities, at 1100 E. 57th St., and Saturday, March 2, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Classics 10, 1010 E. 59th St. For further information about this conference and other Center for Gender Studies programs, contact Gina Olson at (773) 702-9936 or or visit A list of speakers and topics follows.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Dr. Robert Kushner
    Professor of Medicine, Northwestern University, Medical Director, Wellness Institute, Northwestern Memorial Hospital
    “A Lifestyle Patterns Approach to Obesity Treatment”

  • Peter Stearns
    Provost, George Mason University
    “American or Western?: Using Historical Comparison on the Obesity Crisis”

  • Sander Gilman
    Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts & Sciences and of Medicine, University of Illinois-Chicago
    “The Obesity Project: Cultural Models of Explanation in Obesity Studies”


  • Laura Kipnis
    Department of Film & Media Studies, Northwestern University
    “Defending Fat”

  • Dr. Diane S. Lauderdale
    Department of Health Studies, University of Chicago
    “Could Changing Sleep Patterns Contribute to the Obesity Problem?”

  • Dr. Rebecca Lipton
    Department of Pediatrics, University of Chicago
    “The Consequences of Obesity in Minority Children: What Can Be Done?”

  • Clare Pentecost
    Department of Photography & the Humanities, Art Institute of Chicago

  • Jeffrey Sobal
    Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University

  • Candace Vogler
    Department of Philosophy, University of Chicago

  • Dr. Youfa Wang
    Dept. of Human Nutrition, Dept. of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, University of Illinois-Chicago
    “Trends of Childhood Obesity and Underweight in the United States, Brazil, China and Russia”


  • Lauren Berlant
    Director, Center for Gender Studies, Dept. of English, University of Chicago

  • Dr. Virginia Chang
    Dept. of Sociology, University of Chicago
Last modified at 01:55 PM CST on Friday, September 12, 2003.

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