I have co-organized a panel titled: "The Clinical Way: Exploring Biomedicine and Public Health in the Pacific" with Barbara Andersen for the European Society for Oceanists meeting to be held from the 24th to the 27th of June in Brussels. Panelists include: Melanie Dembinsky, Fabienne Labbé, Jacqueline Leckie, Daniela Heil, Gaia Cottino, Mike Poltorak, Katherine Lepani, Patricia Fifita, and John Patu.
I will present a paper titled: "Good Foods and Foods Good for Health: Hunger, Desire, and Metabolic Disorders in Samoa."
Abstract: In Samoa, where rates of obesity and metabolic disorders are very high, the meaning of good food is in flux. Against this backdrop, changing food habits was a topic of major concern in public health campaigns, aid agendas, everyday life, and clinical encounters. These concerns centered on questions like: How are habits formed? How can Samoans change their habits in order to change their diets? What about taste? Based on interviews with diabetes patients, I explore how many differentiated between “good food” (i.e., fatty, salty, and sugary foods) and “food good for health” (i.e., lean meats, fruits, and vegetables). This differentiation, I argue, allowed patients to express fear of hunger and desire for satiety. As a result, despite knowledge of foods good for health, many still craved good foods. This research makes two primary contributions. First, this research introduces theoretical frameworks for examine hunger in the context of obesity research. Second, the distinction between good food and food good for health illuminates the structural and cultural influences on food choice by highlighting the intersection of the changing food environment and Samoan food values. Finally, the idiom of craving and embodied desire, which I explore, counter noncompliance discourses by examining the ways that food choice is experienced as constrained.