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The Weight of Obesity

Hunger and Global Health in Postwar Guatemala (California Studies in Food and Culture #57)

Emily Yates-Doerr


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (9/22/2015)


A woman with hypertension refuses vegetables. A man with diabetes adds iron-fortified sugar to his coffee. As death rates from heart attacks, strokes, and diabetes in Latin America escalate, global health interventions increasingly emphasize nutrition, exercise, and weight loss—but much goes awry as ideas move from policy boardrooms and clinics into everyday life. Based on years of intensive fieldwork, The Weight of Obesity offers poignant stories of how obesity is lived and experienced by Guatemalans who have recently found their diets—and their bodies—radically transformed. Anthropologist Emily Yates-Doerr challenges the widespread view that health can be measured in calories and pounds, offering an innovative understanding of what it means to be healthy in postcolonial Latin America. Through vivid descriptions of how people reject global standards and embrace fatness as desirable, this book interferes with contemporary biomedicine, adding depth to how we theorize structural violence. It is essential reading for anyone who cares about the politics of healthy eating.

Praise For The Weight of Obesity: Hunger and Global Health in Postwar Guatemala (California Studies in Food and Culture #57)

"Yates-Doerr's book offers wise counsel... an excellent indictment of nutritionism."
— Raj Patel

"She convincingly argues there is an element of race-making in the talk around fat and the pathologization of certain lifestyles."
— Medical Anthology Quarterly

"The richness of the book lies in its attention to detail. Emily demonstrates a lovely care for language throughout, showing how specific words are not just embedded in but elicit social contexts."
— Rebeca Ibanez Martin

"In the short few weeks that I have had [Weight of Obesity] on my desk, I have come to consider it as a text to think with, an approach to learn from, and material to teach. The text will inform my own practices as an anthropologist, a science studies body, a teacher, and—on a good day—a writer. Just to wrap up my praise: like very few others, this text accomplishes what any book should: it makes one live with it, through it, and see the world through its eyes. If a book has eyes, that is—and of course, not to over-privilege the visual among the senses."
— Marianne de Laet

"The Weight of Obesity offers a plethora of wide-ranging ideas that emerge powerfully from an ethnography that is subtly grounded on the rupture of political change and the inequities of a global political economy."
— Simon Cohn

"The Weight of Obesity is a wonderful book. It is a book that invites the reader to read aloud brilliant insights and moving, sometimes truly piercing observations. The book contrasts myriads of local intricacies with the global health attempts at ‘treating obesity’. The book links eating practices to such heterogeneous things as pesticides, traditional social obligations of food preparation, the workings of bodies, global politics and hunger, fortified sugar, the beauty of fatness, and racism. This is done with great sensitivity for the particular ways the language of her informants frames practices of eating, health, and happiness. The book is rica, the Guatemalan word for delicious, tasteful, rich."
— Jeannette Pols

University of California Press, 9780520286818, 248pp.

Publication Date: September 22, 2015

About the Author

Emily Yates-Doerr is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam.