“Salvation and Metabolism: Cardiometabolic Disorders in Samoa”
Rates of cardiometabolic disorders have been rising since the 1950s across Oceania. In Samoa, obesity, diabetes, hypertension rates range from 40% to 50% of the population. At the same time, Pentecostal Christian churches began to grow across Samoa as well. Based on fourteen months of ethnographic fieldwork, this talk will explore how salvational and metabolic logics have become entwined across clinics, churches and households. Pentecostal faith practices position the body as an intermediary space where people can come to know God as the body provides evidence of that relationship. The body’s fluctuations mirror fluctuations in faith, and for Pentecostals faith is something that is always challenged by external (and often considered evil) forces. This flux in the body follows a logic of metabolism, where bodily flux reflects the increasingly unpredictable embodied processes related to food consumption. Samoan Pentecostals thus decussated fluctuations in “sugar” (blood glucose) and “blood” (high or low blood pressure) as reflections of emotional states, depression, anger, stress. Faith and metabolism interconnected in everyday practice as they both provided novel frameworks from which to understand environmental change—in food, land use, labor—revealing their similarities as (biomedical and religious) metaphors for situating the body in context. For examples, I will talk about conversion, narrative and healing practices as articulations of the interrelatedness of salvational and metabolic logics. To conclude, I will offer some reflections on the temporal dynamics that articulate the similarities of these logics, and introduce future research more specifically focused on this theme.
"Places and Their Objects: Plantations and the Problem of Vegetables in Samoa”
This paper examines the relationship between plantations (small family gardens) and vegetables (mostly introduced) in Samoa. I describe how Samoans remember, imagine and inhabit these spaces, and then show how vegetables are materials grown in plantations but not of plantations. In other words, vegetables are a problem because they are increasingly required in to order to achieve “health” while also out of place. Vegetables value come not only from connection (as is typical of local food movements), but lack of connection to the plantation. This article questions how vegetables have become a sign of health and brings attention to the ways that this sign can be detrimental to health, thus questioning the naturalness of the category of vegetables. This paper is thus about the relationship between place (the plantation) and their objects (vegetables) and how those relations comes together. While plantations sustain families, spirits, and churches, vegetables promise an individually healthy future—one that seems just out of reach to most Samoans. Vegetables become the vehicle through which health is experienced as never achievable. Affect brings the experience of striving towards the unachievable into view.