Histories of hunger: Latin American Nutritional History and the Metabolic Scales of Nutrition

Authors: Archie Davies*, King's College London
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Geographic Thought, Geography and Urban Health
Keywords: Political Ecology, Hunger, Josué de Castro, Nutrition
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Grand Couteau, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The emerging field of health-environment geographies has enormous potential to advance debates in political ecology about the role of the body in the production of space and nature. One of the key concepts deployed in political ecology is that of ‘metabolism’ as a way of articulating the dialectical relationship between society and nature. Yet ‘metabolism’ has largely been articulated at the scale of society, not that of the body. This paper argues that health-environment geographies, and alternative intellectual histories of human metabolism and nutrition, can play a crucial part in returning the concept of ‘metabolism’ to the scale of the body. A ‘metabolic’ scale of the body imagines health and nutrition as determined across the relationship between the body and the historical geographies within which it is embedded. Taking an intellectual history approach, this paper draws on histories of Latin American thought about hunger to articulate a metabolic scale of the body. Outside anglophone geography there is a long tradition of work available to scholars which constructs political thought on the scale of the (un)healthy body as relationally produced in its environment. Specifically, I draw on the nutritional science of Brazilian geographer Josué de Castro (1908-73) and his colleagues in nutritional institutions in early 20th century Brazil and Argentina.  I argue that the theory of the geographical production of hunger and malnutrition which emerged in these Latin American debates can help contemporary scholars articulate a more embodied political ecology, and a more political ecological geography of health.

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