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Blood Sugar

Racial Pharmacology and Food Justice in Black America

2016
Author:

Anthony Ryan Hatch

Blood Sugar

How contemporary biomedicine has shaped race and racism as America’s health disparities increase

Anthony Ryan Hatch argues that the advent of metabolic syndrome signals a new form of “colorblind scientific racism”—a repackaging of race within biomedical and genomic research. The first sustained social and political inquiry of metabolic syndrome, this provocative and timely book is a crucial contribution to the emerging literature on race and medicine.

Bearing personal witness from the frontiers of the quantified self, Anthony Ryan Hatch offers a reimagining of metabolism as a form of social knowledge. Blood Sugar makes a key contribution to our understanding of the evolution of racial health disparities.

Alondra Nelson, author of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome*

Why do African Americans have exceptionally high rates of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity? Is it their genes? Their disease-prone culture? Their poor diets? Such racist explanations for racial inequalities in metabolic health have circulated in medical journals for decades. Blood Sugar analyzes and challenges the ways in which “metabolic syndrome” has become a major biomedical category that medical researchers have created to better understand the risks high blood pressure, blood sugar, body fat, and cholesterol pose to people. An estimated sixty million Americans are well on the way to being diagnosed with it, many of them belonging to people of color.

Anthony Ryan Hatch argues that the syndrome represents another, very real crisis and that its advent signals a new form of “colorblind scientific racism”—a repackaging of race within biomedical and genomic research. Examining the cultural discussions and scientific practices that target human metabolism of prescription drugs and sugar by African Americans, he reveals how medical researchers who use metabolic syndrome to address racial inequalities in health have in effect reconstructed race as a fixed, biological, genetic feature of bodies—without incorporating social and economic inequalities into the equation. And just as the causes of metabolic syndrome are framed in racial terms, so are potential drug treatments and nutritional health interventions.

The first sustained social and political inquiry of metabolic syndrome, this provocative and timely book is a crucial contribution to the emerging literature on race and medicine. It will engage those who seek to understand how unjust power relations shape population health inequalities and the production of medical knowledge and biotechnologies.

Blood Sugar

Anthony Ryan Hatch is assistant professor in the Science in Society Program at Wesleyan University.

Blood Sugar

Bearing personal witness from the frontiers of the quantified self, Anthony Ryan Hatch offers a reimagining of metabolism as a form of social knowledge. Blood Sugar makes a key contribution to our understanding of the evolution of racial health disparities.

Alondra Nelson, author of The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome*

A highly readable account of the emergence and import of “metabolic syndrome,” a biomedical category of risk designed to capture the dangers of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes... Metabolic syndrome provides a fascinating window into contemporary racialized biomedical conceptualizations of risk, and Blood Sugar is the first sustained sociological analysis of it.

Bulletin of the History of Medicine

An important contribution to the field of science and technology studies.

Journal of Health Politics, Policy & Law/JHPPL

This modest volume is a worthy contribution to the field of critical studies of the intersections of race, health, and power.

Social History of Medicine

In Blood Sugar Hatch offers a brief, informative history of metabolic syndrome together with a critique of the radicalizing processes at work in contemporary biomedical and pharmaceutical research and regulation.

Technology and Culture

Blood Sugar is itself a social justice project. It challenges us to conduct more rigorous studies on metabolic syndrome and gets academics, policy-makers, and physicians at the same table, or exam bed, to have more collaborative and productive conversations about how it affects the radicalization of medicalization, drug treatment, and health.

Contemporary Sociology

Medical sociologists, public health theorists, and historians of medicine will find this work of critical social theory most useful, and it should be consulted by policy makers who interrogate the limits of personal responsibility for health.

ISIS

This modest volume is a worthy contribution of the field of critical studies of the intersections of race, heath and power.

Social History of Medicine

Blood Sugar

Contents
Preface
Introduction: The Metabolic Fetish
1. Race, Biomedicine, and Health Injustice
2. The Emergence of Metabolic Syndrome
3. The Scientific Racism of Metabolism
4. Killer Applications: The Racial Pharmacology of Prescription Drugs
5. Sugar Stained with Blood: African Americans, Sugar, and Modern Agriculture
Conclusion: Metabolic Insurrection
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index