On Wednesday, November 16th, I will present a paper titled: "Saved/Healed: Samoan Pentecostalism and Metabolic Evidence" (see abstract below) for a panel I have co-organized with Risa Cromer titled "Saving: Evidence of/for Preserving and Restoring Life, Health, and Values." Other panel participants include: Britt Halvorson, Anna Corwin, and Dana-Ain Davis. Susan Falls and Ian Whitmarsh will serve as discussants.
Saved/Healed: Samoan Pentecostalism and Metabolic Evidence
The Samoan islands are globally associated with the “obesity epidemic,” where rates ofmetabolic disorders, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, continue to rise in the Samoan islands. Anthropologically, Samoa is often evoked as an example of a place where fat is highly valued and this is often suggested to be a reason for the so-called obesity epidemic. Fat positively reflects Samoan perspectives on the body, which suggest the fat body is a mediating material between the sacred and humans. Metabolic disorders disrupt this logic; fat no longer strictly indicates wealth or wellness, but can also indicates disease and poverty. Metabolism provides Pentecostals ways to understand health as evidence of transcendence and sickness as evidence of distance from God. Healing, like the mercurial quality of metabolism, is fleeting; it is only sustainable in relation to one’s faith, which is constantly tested. Metabolism is, therefore, a way to materially ground the changing nature of faith. The incremental changes in glucose, blood pressure, or weight provide evidence of the ongoing process of healing, registering the incremental success of healing. In this light, the metabolic body is a sensitive system that mediates social, emotional, and spiritual––rendering visible that which is invisible (i.e., sugar, blood).