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
"Incisive, empathetic, and engaging . . .and#160;The rich data Dr. Carney has obtained through her engaged anthropology are a compelling indictment of the human failings of our national food system."
"An intriguing read that will be useful for students as well as health care practitioners. . . . Recommended."
"Anyone who believes that providing medical aid to the poorest people in poor and conflict-ridden countries provides moral clarity should read this book and be disabused."
"A must-read . . . Historically and analytically rich."
As death rates from heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes in Latin America escalate, global health interventions increasingly emphasize healthy eating, exercise, and weight loss. The Weight of Obesity explores how scientific descriptions of body weight are translated from policy boardrooms, clinics, and classrooms into everyday life. It is one of few attempts to ethnographically study the emergence of obesity as a social factand#151;describing what obesity means for people diagnosed as obese and how they respond to protocols of treatment. Whereas scientific and epidemiological projects have analyzed global obesity using population-level statistics, Emily Yates-Doerr takes an anthropological approach, studying how obesity is lived and experienced by those who have recently found their dietsand#151;and their weightsand#151;radically transformed. The stories included illustrate how information about obesity in Guatemalaand#8217;s postwar, postcolonial landscape is changing how people know their bodies and organize their lives.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork from Santa Barbara, California, this book sheds light on the ways that food insecurity prevails in womenand#8217;s experiences of migration from Mexico and Central America to the United States. As women grapple with the pervasive conditions of poverty that hinder efforts at getting enough to eat, they find few options for alleviating the various forms of suffering that accompany food insecurity. Examining how constraints on eating and feeding translate to the uneven distribution of life chances across borders and how and#147;food securityand#8221; comes to dominate national policy in the United States, this book argues for understanding womenand#8217;s relations to these processes as inherently biopolitical.
"The Unending Hunger is a lucid, hard-hittting, and gripping ethnography of Mexican and Central American women migrants in Santa Barbara County, California. Carney unveils the harsh indignities and structural causes of their food insecurity as well as their creative and defiant struggles to eat and live well."and#151;Carole Counihan, coeditor of Food Activism: Agency, Democracy, and Economy
"In this beautiful and incisive ethnography, Carney debunks common conceptualizations about food security and insecurity; in the process, she exposes immigrant womenand#8217;s formidable capacity to survive structural constraints, deep social inequalities, and assaults from neoliberal politics and the inhospitable contexts where they arrive. This is an important and highly recommended book."and#151;Cecilia Menjand#237;var, author of Enduring Violence: Ladina Womenand#8217;s Lives in Guatemala
"In this beautifully crafted book, Megan Carney gives voice to the suffering of immigrant Latinas expected to provide care for their families while being systematically denied the means to do so. At once a theoretical intervention in the debates on the biopolitics of food in/security and a passionate call for a new, gender-sensitive politics of food, Carneyand#8217;s book represents the best of the new ethnographies of migration, food politics, and slow death of vulnerable populations in our neoliberal times."and#151;Susan Greenhalgh, Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University and author of My BMI, My Self: The Hidden Costs of Americaand#8217;s War on Fat
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.
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
Life in Crisis
tells the story of Mand#233;decins Sans Frontiand#232;res (Doctors Without Borders or MSF) and its effort to and#147;save livesand#8221; on a global scale. Begun in 1971 as a French alternative to the Red Cross, the MSF has grown into an international institution with a reputation for outspoken protest as well as technical efficiency. It has also expanded beyond emergency response, providing for a wider range of endeavors, including AIDS care. Yet its seemingly simple ethical goal proves deeply complex in practice. MSF continually faces the problem of defining its own limits. Its minimalist form of care recalls the promise of state welfare, but without political resolution or a sense of well-being beyond health and survival. Lacking utopian certainty, the group struggles when the moral clarity of crisis fades. Nevertheless, it continues to take action and innovate. Its organizational history illustrates both the logic and the tensions of casting humanitarian medicine into a leading role in international affairs.
and#147;Peter Redfieldand#8217;s beautifully and evocatively written Life in Crisis: The Ethical Journey of Doctors Without Borders
, is an extremely accessible and in-depth ethnographic view of the humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders. Redfieldand#8217;s generous and honest examination of humanitarianismand#8217;s contemporary ethical dilemmas brings a novel approach to these often intractable issues; refusing easy answers, Life in Crisis
instead challenges readers to think what it means to act, even without hope.and#8221;and#151;Miriam Ticktin, author of Casualties of Care: Immigration and the Politics of Humanitarianism in France
and#147;While humanitarianism has recently become a major domain of investigation in the social sciences, it still lacked its ethnography: with Peter Redfieldand#8217;s subtle, insightful and deeply honest study of Doctors Without Borders, we now have it. Bringing together the ethical issues raised by the project of saving lives, such as the triage of patients, the practice of bearing witness, and the aporia of neutrality, Life in Crisis offers a generous but critical perspective on the Nobel Prize winning organization.and#8221; Didier Fassin, author of Humanitarian Reason. A Moral History of the Present
In this groundbreaking study of organic farming, Julie Guthman challenges accepted wisdom about organic food and agriculture in the Golden State. Many continue to believe that small-scale organic farming is the answer to our environmental and health problems, but Guthman refutes popular portrayals that pit small organic” against big organic” and offers an alternative analysis that underscores the limits of an organic label as a pathway to transforming agriculture.
This second edition includes a thorough investigation of the federal organic program, a discussion of how the certification arena has continued to grow and change since its implementation, and an up-to-date guide to the structure of the organic farming sector. Agrarian Dreams delivers an indispensable examination of organic farming in California and will appeal to readers in a variety of areas, including food studies, agriculture, environmental studies, anthropology, sociology, geography, and history.
A meticulous academic study of the institutional dynamics of [California's] organic agriculture.”Steven Shapin, New Yorker
"Agrarian Dreams throws a cold shower of reality over the dream of organic agriculture in California, demonstrating all that is lost when organic farming goes industrial. This is a challenging book, and until we can answer the hard questions Julie Guthman poses, a genuinely sustainable agriculture will elude us."Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivores Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
"Julie Guthman has written a major study illuminating the problematic results of the struggle for standards in the organic farming sector of California...a guide for American citizens to return to the political issues that cannot go away: labor and land." Harriet Friedman, Journal of Agrarian Change
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.
About the Author
Emily Yates-Doerris 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 Tables
List of Abbreviations
Preface to the Second Edition
1. Agrarian Dreams
2. Finding the Way: Roads to Organic Production
3. Organic Farming: Ideal Practices and Practical Ideals
4. California Dreaming: Californias Agro-Industrial Legacy
5. Organic Sediment: A Geography of Organic Production
6. Conventionalizing Organic: From Social Movement to Industry via Regulation
7. Organic Regulation Ramified
8. California Organics, Fifteen Years On