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
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.
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.