series event

Enacting community health: obesity prevention policies as practices of relating

Drawing on Critical Policy Studies and feminist science, technology and society (STS), this lecture conceptualises obesity prevention activities as ongoing and precarious socio-material practices of relating – rather than as means for ‘getting results’ or vehicles through which normative discourses are being instilled. Else Vogel focuses on ‘community approaches’ within public health, whose aim is to stimulate and encourage healthy initiatives from what policy makers term ‘bottom-up’, emerging from the situations, concerns and abilities within neighborhoods.

Else suggests that living up to this promise requires policy makers to pay careful attention to when, how and whose knowledge is recognized and mobilized. Drawing on ethnographic research on the ‘Amsterdam Healthy Weight Program’, Else will demonstrate that through different forms of engagement, particular notions of health and community take shape. She warns that reliance on statistics-based problem definitions, dietary advice and professional hierarchies risks locating the problem and solution within certain ‘problem populations’ defined around class and ethnicity.

In this seminar, Else will also show that community approaches may also foster spaces for ‘situated caring’, where health emerges in the negotiation of heterogeneous goods, including neighbourhood revival, togetherness and fun. Since situated caring has effects that cannot be captured in obesity prevalence statistics, Public Health is invited self-reflexively to develop its policy goals and commitments. Policy, after all, is not a monolithic structure of plans and commitments but is continuously done and redone in sites and situations. Else will also show in this seminar how multiplicity implies that alternatives to dominant biopolitical discourses may also be derived from within policy efforts of tackling obesity.         

Else Vogel is a researcher working at the intersection of medical anthropology and feminist STS with an interest in values, knowledge and subjectivity in care practices. She divides her time between the Anthropology department of the University of Amsterdam and the department of Technology & Social Change at Linköping University. Ongoing research projects include studies of obesity care and prevention and chronic pain rehabilitation in the Netherlands. Recently, she started a project of human-animal relations in farm animal care under a Veni grant from the Dutch Research Council.


Please note that this session will NOT be live-streamed/recorded



No registration required. Seats available on first come, first served basis.


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