Professor Image of ABIGAIL C. SAGUY


Associate Professor, Vice Chair and Director of Undergraduate Studies

Ph. D., Princeton University AND L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris

Work Phone:
Mailing Address:
UCLA Department of Sociology
264 Haines Hall, Box 951551
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1551


Gender, culture, law, politics, comparative sociology

Research Interests

I have a longstanding interest in how cultural schemas shape power relations and how subordinate groups are sometimes able to create new cultural meaning to increase their control. I have pursued these interests through my research on national and institutional definitions of sexual harassment and on framing contests over fatness. In these “hot” or highly contested topics, social actors make their cultural assumptions explicit, making them ideally suited to cultural analysis. Sexual harassment and a “cult of thinness” are of central concern to feminist scholars. Sexual harassment is a widely-recognized barrier to gender equity in employment and education, while beauty ideals of extreme slenderness negatively affect women’s self-image and limit their effectiveness in public and professional life. Compared to their thinner sisters, heavier women are paid less, are less likely to marry, and when married have lower earning spouses. I have shown how cultural understandings – specifically about sexual harassment and body weight – are shaped by individual and collective action within specific cultural and institutional constraints. To this end, I have used multiple methods and cross-national, cross-issue, and cross-institutional comparisons.

In recent years, the “obesity epidemic” has emerged as a top public health concern in the United States and abroad. Scholars, journalists, and politicians alike are scrambling to find answers. What or who is responsible for this crisis and what can be done to stop it? In contrast, in my forthcoming book, I argue that these fraught debates obscure more important sociological questions: How has fatness come to be understood as a public health crisis at all? Why has the view of fatness as a medical problem and public health crisis come to dominate more positive framings of weight – as consistent with health, beauty, or a legitimate rights claim—in public discourse? Why are heavy individuals singled out for blame? And what are the consequences of understanding weight in these ways? 

Selected Publications

What's Wrong with Fat?  " Read the Introduction"  Oxford University Press. 2013.

What is Sexual Harassment?: From Capitol Hill to the Sorbonne. University of California Press. 2003.

Selected articles

Reporting Risk, Producing Prejudice: How News Reporting on Obesity Shapes Attitudes about Health Risk, Policy, and Prejudice.” 2014. Social Science and Medicine. 111: June, 125-133. (with David Frederick, and Kjerstin Gruys.

"When Frames (Don’t) Matter: Querying the Relationship between Ideas and Policy" 2013. RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research Program Working Paper Series, No. W53, December. (With Henri Bergeron and Patrick Castel)

"Gendered Homophobia and the Contradictions of Workplace Discrimination for Women in the Building Trades" 2014Gender & Society.  28:3, pp. 381-403. (with Amy Denissen) 

Coming Out as Fat: Rethinking Stigma. " 2011.Social Psychology Quarterly. March, 74:1, pp. 53-75 (with Anna Ward)

" Social Problem Construction and National Context: News Reporting on ‘Overweight’ and ‘Obesity’ in the U.S. and France. " 2010. Social Problems. November, 57:4, pp. 586-610 (with Kjerstin Gruys and Shanna Gong)

Morality and Health: News Media Constructions of Overweight and Eating Disorders. " 2010. Social Problems, May, 57:2, pp. 231-250. (with Kjerstin Gruys)

Fat in the Fire? Science, the News Media, and the 'Obesity Epidemic'.” 2008. Sociological Forum. 23:1. pp. 53-83.(With Rene Almeling). Email for a reprint.

The Epidemiology of Overweight and Obesity: Public Health Crisis or Moral Panic? ” 2006. International Journal of Epidemiology. 35:1. pp. 55-60. (With Paul Campos, Paul Ernsberger, Eric Oliver, and Glen Gaesser).

Constructing Social Problems in an Age of Globalization: A French-American Comparison.” 2005. American Sociological Review. 70(2):233-259 (With Rodney Benson).

Weighing Both Sides: Morality, Mortality and Framing Contests over Obesity." 2005. Journal of Health Politics, Policy, and Law. 30:5, pp. 869-921 (With Kevin W. Riley).

International Crossways: Traffic in Sexual Harassment Policy.” 2002. European Journal of Women’s Studies. 9:3, pp. 249-267.

Employment Discrimination or Sexual Violence?: Defining Sexual Harassment in French and American Law.” 2000. Law and Society Review. 34:4, pp. 1091-1128.

Puritanism and Promiscuity? Sexual Attitudes in France and the United States.” 1999. Comparative Social Research. Vol. 18, pp. 227-247.


ASA/NSF Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline (FAD): Creating the “Obesity Epidemic”: Science, Social Activism, and the Mass Media. $7000. 2004-2006.

National Science Foundation. Doctoral Dissertation Research: Defining Sexual Harassment in France and the United States. NSF 98-2. $3400. 1998-1999.

French Government. Subvention pour le fonctionnement d’une cotutelle de thèse (Dissertation Grant). 35,000 F ($6364). 1998-1999.

Council for European Studies. The Young Scholars Networking Grant. Spring 2000.


Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS), Stanford. Fellow. 2008-2009.

Fellowship. Robert Wood Johnson Scholars in Health Policy Research Program (Yale site). 2000-2002.

Winner. Sally Hacker Award. Sex and Gender section of the American Sociological Association. 2000. "Sexual Harassment in France and the United States: Activists and Public Figures Defend their Definitions."

Grad Students

Kjerstin Gruys

Marie Berry

Michael Stambolis

Susila Gurusami

Nicole Iturriaga

Rebecca DiBennardo

Amberia Sargeant

Jessica Huerta