Lectures

Who feeds (on) whom? Labour and the porosity of environments and bodies

Hannah Landecker writes about the new metabolism as “a model in which food enters the body and in a sense never leaves it, because food transforms the organism’s being as much as the organism transforms it” (2011: 177). Articulating Landecker’s insights into the porosity of bodies through an anthropological lens, Harris Solomon (2016) offers an ethnography of absorption in the …

Lectures

Social Soils and Chimerical Metabolisms

The metabolic rift

“All progress in capitalist agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the worker, but of robbing the soil,” Marx (1976: 637-38) wrote in Volume I of Capital. For Marx, not only was the capitalist mode of production incapable of valuing nature in its own right, but its central contradictions also left it …

Lectures

Feeble-mindedness, depression and obesity: a brief history of eugenics and dietary interventions in Australia

In October 2019 the Australian Productivity Commission (APC) released a report stating that mental health cost employers $4.7 billion AUD in absenteeism. The report also highlighted significant government expenditure on health services as well as intangible costs on committees. Over the past decade there have also been a number of reports from federal and state governments on the economic and …

Lectures

Gloves, embryos, and DDT: thinking with surfaces on toxicity in South Africa

In the early 1980s, researchers at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa were confounded by the persistent failure of their experimental mice embryos. The researchers had hoped to develop the first successful in vitro fertilization (IVF) programme in Africa. Yet, attempt after attempt, the mice embryos died. One researcher recounted to me later that he reviewed other protocols and …

Lectures

Eating in Class: Notes on Nourishment and Decolonial Pedagogy

It’s a common adage, following Lévi-Strauss, that “food is good to think with.” A class assignment that includes food-centred ethnographic presentations expands the scope of such thinking into embodied and institutional memory. Below I describe such a class feast prepared by second-year social anthropology students at Sol Plaatje University in 2019 (one of two post-Apartheid South African Universities). The idea …

Lectures

Confronting constructs with cataclysms in neuroepigenetics

I went to a Science and Technology Studies (STS) conference in Melbourne recently and listened to a panel of social scientists share their work about psychological disorders. There was no doubt I had stakes in being there; I study embodiment and trauma and so I knew what I was hoping to hear. I sat, in anticipation, waiting to hear about …