We live in a world obsessed with abdomens. Whether we call it the belly, tummy, or stomach, we take this area of the body for granted as an object of our gaze, the subject of our obsessions, and the location of deeply felt desires. Diet, nutrition, and exercise all play critical roles in the development of our body images and thus our sense of self, not least because how we are made to feel about bodies (both our own and those of others) is often grounded in dietary and lifestyle choices. Cultures of the Abdomen traces the history of social, cultural, and medical ideas about the stomach and related organs since the seventeenth century, and demonstrates that a focused study of the abdomen is necessary for understanding the deep historical meanings that underscore our contemporary obsessions with hunger, diet, fat, indigestion, and excretion. It locates that history from dietary ideals in early modern Europe to the vexing issue of American fat in the twenty-first century, surveying along the way developments in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia.

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