In 2013, the New York Times lamented the “health toll of immigration.” According to this narrative, formerly healthy immigrants—the article was talking about Hispanics, the largest group of immigrants in the US—were getting sick in the United States due to their changed consumption habits. Studies had shown that the longer they lived in the US, the shorter their statistical life span became. As an explanation, the studies suggested that, once in the US, Mexican immigrants switched from their “traditional Mexican foods like cactus and beans,” high in fiber and low in meat, to an American fare of giant hamburgers and fried chicken—because it was now available and affordable. Consequently, obesity and diabetes rates increased among immigrants and shortened their life span. The article highlighted how the changed food choices of Mexican immigrants made them sick.
Such a newspaper story fits seamlessly into contemporary narratives of migration from countries of the global South to the global North. These narrative frames re-establish racial boundaries by depicting people from supposedly underdeveloped societies who struggle with life in industrialized and technological nations. Simultaneously, these narratives negotiate notions of health and belonging: By pitting traditional lifestyles against modern consumption habits, they not only determine what can be considered as a healthy diet but also flag health as a result of proper choices by responsible individuals in a society.
Notions of racial difference and bodily health are mutually constitutive. This workshop explores the making and unmaking of race and health in globalization processes between the nineteenth century and the present day. Drawing upon newer research in postcolonial studies and dis/ability studies, the workshop aims to analyze health, migration, racialization and transculturation as historically contingent, fluid, and intersecting phenomena. In particular, the workshop analyzes the entanglements of race and health in migration and development in the 19th and 20th century by asking how health discourses and practices contributed to create racial boundaries, how racist concepts shaped notions of health, and how these discourses continue to be mutually constitutive to migration, citizenship, and belonging.
The workshop is funded by the Forum for the Study of the Global Condition.
For the workshop, please register with firstname.lastname@example.org. The keynote is open to the public.
Thursday, May 7, 2020
Welcome and Introduction
Rebecca Brückmann (Bochum): Space_Race: Environment, Embodiment and Ability in the 19th Century United States Southwest
Julio Decker (Bristol): Biopolitics at the Border: Immigration Restriction and Racialization in the United States, 1894-1924
Kristina Graaff (HU Berlin): Reading (Mental and Physical) “Health” as Successful Adjustment: U.S. Advice Columns of the Interwar Period at the Intersections of Race, Gender, and Class
Fenneke Sysling (Leiden): Race and Constitutional Types in Mid-20th Century Anthropology
Keynote: Sabrina Strings (University of California, Irvine): The Racial Roots of Fatphobia: The Pre-and-Post Script of the “Obesity Epidemic”
Friday, May 8, 2020
Nina Mackert (Leipzig): Mapping Calories, Making Race. Race, Ability, and Health in early 20th Century US Nutrition Research
Cécile Stehrenberger (Erfurt): Race, Health and Disaster (Research), 1949-2020
Peter-Paul Bänziger (Basel): Citizen Consumers vs. Foreign Dealers. Health, Migration, and the Production of Narcotics Markets in Switzerland, 1960-2000
Veronika Lipphardt (Freiburg): Patterns of Diversity. Human Population Genetics, 1950s-2000
Katharina Schramm (Bayreuth): Doing Race in Genomic Practice