This year I organized a panel, titled "Bodies and their Materials: Creating and critiquing “good” care" with Chelsea Wentworth. I am also giving a paper on the panel, "Chronic disaster: Reimagining Diet-Related Disease As Structural Violence" organized by Megan Carney and Emily Yates-Doerr. Finally, I will serve as a discussant for the panel titled: "Resisting Biomedicine: Politics, Practices, and Logics of Care," organized by Zakea Boeger.
Bodies and their Materials: Creating and critiquing “good” care
At the intersection of the study of food, nutrition, and medicine, this panel examines how “good” care is reflected and evaluated by community members and health care professionals through embodied social experiences. Anthropology's engagement with embodiment offers a reminder to the discipline that experience is materially grounded; humans create culture through and with their bodies. We revisit this to ask how change is tracked by people through their bodies and the materials that mediate bodies such as food, medication, or other substances consumed to promote health. We explore how embodied experiences reflect patterns of resistance, resilience and adaptation over time, either through the lifecourse, or in relation to shifting political, social, and environmental contexts. As a foundation of social relationships, these embodied critiques inform moral notions of “good” care, “good” clinical encounters, and “good” kinship practices. An abstract concept, the idea of “good” care signals particular practices, institutions, and people while simultaneously indexing embodied experiences of places and feelings. To feel cared for, or to feel one is appropriately caring for the self, references a specific set of practices that articulate moral values. At the intersection of the moral notion of “good” care and the materiality of consuming food and medicine, physical bodies are displayed, critiqued, and evaluated through a variety of social experiences. Bodies then become the sites through which communities, health care workers, and kin evaluate the quality of care the body receives from others and from the self. This panel explores how particular embodied experiences--around eating, sickness, and health---are translated into knowledge, and how this knowledge is used to reflect ideas of health. Papers in this panel address concepts of identity creation through food consumption, fusion foodways, the embodied practice of preparing food and feeding others, embodied motherhood, and mothering with chronic illness. With regional expertise from the Pacific Islands, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean, the papers presented here place ideas of embodied care in cross-cultural conversation. Bodily signs can serve as evidence of resistance, resilience and adaptation, thus creating an embodied grounding for social critique. We ask how do embodied experiences shape people’s understandings of social change? In what ways are embodied signs, or biomedical symptoms, central to how people articulate social transformation or stasis? How do individuals and communities express their resiliency in the face of external pressures or stressors? What methods are individuals and communities using to adapt to social and/or ecological changes, and how are these experiences expressed in bodily form? Using our anthropological imagination, this set of papers illustrate how individuals and communities are responding to changes in the embodied expression of “good” care.
Problems of Faith: Vegetables, Healthy Diets and Pentecostal Healing
In the Samoan islands there has been a steady rise of cardiometabolic disorders since the 1950s and has been a site of over 30 years of epidemiological research, which have led to public interventions developed from this research base. Health promotion materials are ubiquitous, encouraging eating less and exercising more, stressing the importance of eating a vegetable-based diet and embracing planation labor as a form of fitness. All of these messages locate responsibility in a choice-model of health. Samoan public health, in an effort develop community-engagement, positions churches as partners or sites for “culturally appropriate” health promotion. However, Pentecostal churches are not considered ‘culturally appropriate” sites for this delivery, and yet, Pentecostals have a critical position on the so-called NCD epidemic. Drawing attention to the relationship between the social world and the spirit, Pentecostals brings into focus multiple and flexible etiologies derived from the basic logic that environments and relationships permeate the body in ways that create sickness and health. Instead of blaming individuals, Pentecostals talked about social barriers to health, in turn transforming the problem of food, fat, and fitness into a problem of faith. Through Pentecostal healing, Pentecostals came to identify their source of suffering in the social world where relationships—social, structural, economic—penetrated the body. Bringing together distinct anthropological ways of approaching illness—from the anthropology of Christianity and medical anthropology—shows the creative ways that structural limitations are negotiated by those living with cardiometabolic disorders.