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Eating Anxiety

The Perils of Food Politics

2013
Author:

Chad Lavin

Eating Anxiety

How the experience of eating influences our politics

Eating Anxiety argues that our culture’s obsession with diet, obesity, meat, and local foods enacts ideological and biopolitical responses to perceived threats to both individual and national sovereignty. Exploring discourses of food politics, Chad Lavin links the concerns of food—especially issues of sustainability, public health, and inequality—to the evolution of the world order and the possibilities for democratic rule.

In Eating Anxiety, Chad Lavin steadfastly rejects what have come to be clichés about our modern relation to food and gives us new answers to old questions about what makes us anxious about food. His innovative analysis tacks back and forth between political philosophy and contemporary food treatises to show how ethical consumption is founded on untenable notions of the liberal, disembodied subject—ironically so. Taking swipes at obesity hysteria, food localism, and post-humanism alike, Lavin asks us to confront our anxieties—including those about our failing democracy—rather than to seek solace in individualist approaches to food system change.

Julie Guthman, author of Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism

Debates about obesity are really about the meaning of responsibility. The trend toward local foods reflects the changing nature of space due to new communication technologies. Vegetarian theory capitalizes on biotechnology’s challenge to the meaning of species. And food politics, as this book makes powerfully clear, is actually about the political anxieties surrounding globalization.

In Eating Anxiety, Chad Lavin argues that our culture’s obsession with diet, obesity, meat, and local foods enacts ideological and biopolitical responses to perceived threats to both individual and national sovereignty. Using the occasion of eating to examine assumptions about identity, objectivity, and sovereignty that underwrite so much political order, Lavin explains how food functions to help structure popular and philosophical understandings of the world and the place of humans within it. He introduces the concept of digestive subjectivity and shows how this offers valuable resources for rethinking cherished political ideals surrounding knowledge, democracy, and power.

Exploring discourses of food politics, Eating Anxiety links the concerns of food—especially issues of sustainability, public health, and inequality—to the evolution of the world order and the possibilities for democratic rule. It forces us to question the significance of consumerist politics and—simultaneously—the relationship between politics and ethics, public and private.

Eating Anxiety

Chad Lavin is associate professor of political science and social, political, ethical, and cultural thought (ASPECT) at Virginia Tech. He is the author of The Politics of Responsibility.

Eating Anxiety

In Eating Anxiety, Chad Lavin steadfastly rejects what have come to be clichés about our modern relation to food and gives us new answers to old questions about what makes us anxious about food. His innovative analysis tacks back and forth between political philosophy and contemporary food treatises to show how ethical consumption is founded on untenable notions of the liberal, disembodied subject—ironically so. Taking swipes at obesity hysteria, food localism, and post-humanism alike, Lavin asks us to confront our anxieties—including those about our failing democracy—rather than to seek solace in individualist approaches to food system change.

Julie Guthman, author of Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism

Ultimately, Lavin reveals how current philosophical and sociohistorical approaches to food help support neoliberal interests, suggesting the need to create alternatives to consumer actions as forms of resistance.

CHOICE

Eating Anxiety

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Food Politics in the Twilight of Sovereignty

1. Diet and American Ideology
2. Eating Alone
3. The Digestive Turn in Political Thought
4. Responsibility and Disease in Obesity Politics
5. The Year of Eating Politically
6. The Meat We Don’t Eat

Conclusion: Democracy and Disgust

Notes
Index