Med03
Food as medicine: biosocialities of eating in health and illness

Convenors:
Heather Howard (Michigan State University)
Narelle Warren (Monash University)
Anna Lavis (University of Birmingham)
Karin Eli (University of Oxford)
Stream:
Medical
Location:
Magdalen Oscar Wilde Room
Start time:
21 September, 2018 at 9:00
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

This panel examines food as medicine at the convergence of material, imagined and biosocial aspects of healing. It explores medicalized transformations of commensality, experiential liminalities of feeding spaces and technologies, and productions of agency and sovereignty in healing through food.

Long abstract:

Entanglements of health, illness, and eating offer a critical lens onto the social, material, and imagined dimensions of gastro-politics. Imbalanced diets, lack of appetite, 'overindulgence', food contamination, and malnutrition are among the iniquitous aspects of eating implicated in the diagnosis of disorder, disease, and their concomitant marginalized biosocialities. In turn, food is also reconfigured as medicine; it is used in the restoration of health and the management of chronic conditions, as well as to resocialise marginalized bodies and identities into bio-political realignment with social hierarchy, citizenship, responsibility, and choice. This panel examines food-as-medicine at the convergence of material, intangible, social, imagined, and biological aspects of healing. The papers will consider medicalized transformations of intimacy, commensality, and power in feeding and eating. They will trace experiential liminalities of 'recovery' through feeding spaces and technologies, elucidating contradictions and reconfigurations of agency/disempowerment, body sovereignty, and liability in processes of healing through food. Representing diverse ethnographic foci and locales, analyses will theorise food as medicine as experienced by people with neurological conditions, people who have had bariatric/metabolic surgery, and people with eating disorders and other mental health conditions, among others. Together, these accounts will emphasize the intangible, haptic, and biopolitical dimensions of food as medicine, interrogating how 'recovery' may be induced through forced, relearned, assisted, and measured forms of ingestion. Alongside their papers, panellists will present items that experientially convey textures and temporalities of food-as-medicine, including meal replacements, timers, scales, and measuring cups, highlighting the sensory aspects of these medicalized materialities.