Synopses & Reviews
andquot;Emily Yates-Doerr gives us an anthropologistandrsquo;s tough analysis of how one resource-poor Guatemalan population responds to an increasingly globalized food supply as it transitions rapidly from widespread hunger and malnutrition to the increasing prevalence of obesity and its health consequences.and#160;The Weight of Obesity
views this and#39;nutrition transitionand#39; from the unusually revealing perspective of an insider who experienced it personally with eyes wide open.andquot; andmdash;Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health
andquot;Yates-Doerr skillfully interweaves theory and ethnographic evidence in showing what happens when U.S. nutrition science and public health campaigns to address and#39;obesityand#39; are imported to indigenous Guatemala, with its very different language, culinary culture, and political history. This will be a model ethnography for students of anthropology, and particularly anthropology of science.andquot; andmdash;Heather Paxson, author of The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America
andquot;This book presents an important and novel perspective on the body, nutrition, and health in the complicated social landscape of western Guatemala. Yates-Doerr uncovers the complex and contradictory ways that the scientific metrics of nutrition intersect with local culinary traditions and modern food preferences to produce both malnutrition and obesity.andquot; andmdash;Edward F. Fischer, author of The Good Life: Aspiration, Dignity, and the Anthropology of Wellbeing
andquot;In this finely nuanced ethnographic account of nutritional counseling in Xela, Guatemala, Yates-Doerr shows how the ostensible simplicity of ideas to eat more of one food group and less of another can not only be terribly opaque but can also inflict a unique sort of violence.andquot;and#160;andmdash;Julie Guthman, author of Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism
andquot;Reading this book is a riveting ethnographic journey into the rich cultural meanings and devastating social consequences of the and#39;nutritionand#39; revolution in Guatemala. It is full of brilliant insights that turn conventional understanding on its head. Readers will never think about health, diet, nutrition, weight gain, or obesity the same way again. Based on extensive field research, Yates-Doerr has produced a tour de force: an ethnography that joins deep cultural understanding with astute analysis of the powerful global interests at play.andquot;andmdash;Emily Martin, author of The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction
andquot;This is a truly remarkable book. It resists reductionist accounts, exploring instead what it is to weigh bodies and use numbers. It avoids conceptual closures, laying out instead how obese (a problem) differs from fat (a strength). Its rich stories about food and care will etch themselves in your soul.andquot; andmdash;Annemarie Mol, author of The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient Choice
Assisted reproduction, with its test tubes, injections, and gamete donors, often raises important concerns regarding matters of life and kinship. Yet these concerns do not take the same form everywhere around the world. In this innovative ethnography of in vitro fertilization in Ecuador, Elizabeth Roberts shows how having children through biotechnological intervention is not only tolerated, it is embraced by the population, despite widespread poverty and official condemnation by the Catholic Church. Roberts takes us into clinics, laboratories, and homes, providing a textured picture of the integration of these biotechnologies into Andean life. Intimate portraits of patients, donors, and practitioners reveal profoundly different understandings of nature and the self compared with those found in other countries. Andean understanding of the body as malleable resonates with cutting-edge theories of the material world put forth by contemporary scholars of science and technology. The Ecuadorian embrace of reproductive technology, however, is less a reflection of a desire to be "modern", than it is a product of colonial racial history, Catholic theologies, and kinship systems. This clearly written account offers a grounded introduction to debates in science studies and medical anthropology, as well as nuanced ethnography of the mingling of science, religion, and history in Andean family life.
and#147;Bold and gripping, Godand#8217;s Laboratory
is ethnography at its best. The bookand#8217;s unforgettable characters and their desperate travails to reproduce via global medicine are the very fabric of a highly-original and much-needed social theory for our twenty-first century technological societies.and#8221; - Joand#227;o Biehl, author of Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment
"Godand#8217;s Laboratory is the perfect anthropological antidote to the fetishization of reproductive materials as 'life itself.' Roberts shows in meticulous detail and in luminous prose how Catholic scientists and technicians in Ecuador invite God into private IVF labs to and#145;bless the workand#8217; of producing embryos. Kinship, care, and cultivation -- not embryonic life -- define reproduction in this uncertain world." - Nancy Scheper-Hughes, author of Death Without Weeping: The Violence of Everyday Life in Brazil
and#147;Written with clarity, compassion, and self-reflection, God's Laboratory is a beautiful book which puts the ethnographic method to excellent use. Roberts's painstaking fieldwork unearthed the many layers through which the aspirations for fertility and use of infertility technologies instantiate not only gender and kinship in Ecuador, but ethnicity, race and region in the national project of modernity. The book is a stunning instance of the benefits which accrue when the study of reproduction is used as an optic for understanding social life.and#8221; - Rayna Rapp, author of Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America
and#147;Godand#8217;s Laboratory is a strong, intriguing and careful look at the daily connections between faith and science that underpin the process of human assisted reproduction in urban Ecuador." -Marisol de la Cadena, author of Indigenous Mestizos: The Politics of Race and Culture in Cuzco, Peru, 1910-1991
Assisted reproduction, with its test tubes, injections, and gamete donors, raises concerns about the nature of life and kinship. Yet these concerns do not take the same shape around the world. In this innovative ethnography of in vitro fertilization in Ecuador, Elizabeth F.S. Roberts explores how reproduction by way of biotechnological assistance is not only accepted but embraced despite widespread poverty and condemnation from the Catholic Church. Robertsand#8217; intimate portrait of IVF practitioners and their patients reveals how technological intervention is folded into an Andean understanding of reproduction as always assisted, whether through kin or God. She argues that the Ecuadorian incarnation of reproductive technology is less about a national desire for modernity than it is a product of colonial racial history, Catholic practice, and kinship configurations. Godand#8217;s Laboratory offers a grounded introduction to critical debates in medical anthropology and science studies, as well as a nuanced ethnography of the interplay between science, religion, race and history in the formation of Andean families.
Microcredit is part of a global trend of financial inclusion that brings banking services, and especially small loans, to the worldand#8217;s poor. While credit for the poor has increasingly come under the rubric of commercial banking, Paraguayan solidarity lending offers a window into the tensions between social development and global finance.
Social Collateral tracks collective debt across the commercial society and smuggling economies at the Paraguayan border through examining group loans made to women by nonprofit development programs. These highly regulated loans are secured through mutual support and peer pressureand#151;social collateraland#151;rather than through physical collateral.
The story of social collateral cannot be told without an interwoven story about the feminization of solidarity lending. At its core is an economy of genderand#151;from pink-collar financial work, to menand#8217;s committees, to hard women smugglers. At stake are interdependencies that bind borrowers and lenders, financial technologies, and Paraguayan development in ways that structure both global inequality and opportunity.
and#147;Social Collateral is not only a fine-grained ethnography redolent with the detail of everyday practice but a cogent, carefully woven portrait of microcredit. Schusterand#8217;s lively work makes an important addition to the burgeoning literature on finance and global development.and#8221;and#151;Kregg Hetherington, author of Guerrilla Auditors: The Politics of Transparency in Neoliberal Paraguay
A woman with hypertension refuses vegetables. A man with diabetes adds iron-fortified sugar to his coffee. As death rates from heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes in Latin America escalate, global health interventions increasingly emphasize nutrition, exercise, and weight lossand#151;but much goes awry as ideas move from policy boardrooms and clinics into everyday life. Based on years of intensive fieldwork, The Weight of Obesity offers poignant stories of how obesity is lived and experienced by Guatemalans who have recently found their dietsand#151;and their bodiesand#151;radically transformed. Anthropologist Emily Yates-Doerr challenges the widespread view that health can be measured in calories and pounds, offering an innovative understanding of what it means to be healthy in postcolonial Latin America. Through vivid descriptions of how people reject global standards and embrace fatness as desirable, this book interferes with contemporary biomedicine, adding depth to how we theorize structural violence. It is essential reading for anyone who cares about the politics of healthy eating.
is not only a fine-grained ethnography redolent with the detail of everyday practice but a cogent, carefully woven portrait of microcredit. Schusterandrsquo;s lively work makes an important addition to the burgeoning literature on finance and global development.andrdquo;andmdash;Kregg Hetherington, author of Guerrilla Auditors: The Politics of Transparency in Neoliberal Paraguay
andquot;A methodologically innovative approach to the socio-economic and the multi-directional processes of financialization! The punchline is not simply that finance is, in fact, social. This crucial work demonstrates how microcredit programs depend on social density, as well as help to produce the very social collateral upon which they depend. Instead of presuming that social relations are the pregiven context upon which finance acts (which furthers a problematic binary approach to andldquo;financeandrdquo; vs. andldquo;the socialandrdquo;), Schuster expertly illustrates the human interdependencies, claims, and perspectives that produce financial forms, instruments, and practices as always already socio-economic phenomena.andquot;andmdash;Karen Ho, author ofand#160;Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street
andquot;Meticulously exploring the connections and disjunctions of microcredit NGOs, credit counselors, financial technologies, and ordinary peopleandrsquo;s webs of relations,and#160;Social Collateraland#160;is a fascinating and innovative study of the microcredit complex in Paraguay.and#160;Schusterand#160;recasts long-standing questions on gender and the politics of interdependency, thus opening a significant new direction in the anthropological study of poverty and debt - a remarkable achievement.andquot;andmdash;Clara Han, author of Life in Debt: Times of Care and Violence in Neoliberal Chileand#160;
About the Author
Emily Yates-Doerr is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam. Her research attends to collisions between global and Indigenous politics, practices of translating between research and policy in the food sciences, and the methods of engaged anthropology. This is her first book.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Cast of Characters
Introduction: Reproductive Assistance
Corporeal Punishment: Sandra
1. Private Medicine and the Law of Life
Crazy for Bingo: Consuelo
2. Assisted Whiteness
Yo Soy Teresa la Fea/Ugly Teresa
3. White Beauty: Gamete Donation in a Mestizo Nation
When Blood Calls: Frida and Anabela
4. Egg Economies and the Traffic between Women
5. On Ice: Embryo Destinies