The Body as a Biopedagogical Site: Visceral Acuity and the Ecological Lessons of the Paleo/Keto Body

Authors: Chelsea Leiper*, University of Delaware
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology
Keywords: bodied knowledge, visceral geography, political ecology of health, diet
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Madison A, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

We live in an increasingly self-focused society, from the rise of social media celebrities to an increase in time and money spent on “self-care” including workout and dieting regimens. Critics call attention to this culture of narcissism, noting the part it plays in perpetuating a lack of individual concern for broader scale environmental issues and for taking action such as reducing one’s consumption footprint. In this paper I consider how ecological awareness can be fostered in a self-absorbed society, and whether “the self,” particularly the consuming body, can be an entry point for developing ecological health awareness beyond the body. Drawing upon data from 55 in-depth semi-structured interviews with Paleo and Keto dieters, I elucidate how adhering to the principles of these diets transformed participants’ relationships to their bodies and food and influenced their ideas about food systems, health, and the environment more generally. I argue that through the visceral, lived experience of the embodied practices of eating and dieting and the development of what I term visceral acuity (or a heightened bodily awareness and ability to interpret the signals of the body), the body can be transformed into a biopedagogical site for establishing new understandings of the body-food-health connection. By focusing on health knowledge production at the scale of the consuming body, I highlight the potential of bodied knowledges from enhanced visceral acuity to serve as a gateway to ecological lessons both within and beyond the body.

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