chapter  10
16 Pages

The governmentality of girth

So far in this book we have examined modern nutrition in terms of the choosing subject – the subject of food choice – someone who, given the right knowledge about the nutritional values of food, will be well placed to make the ‘right’ and ‘proper’ choices about what is good to eat. As we have noted, ‘good’ here registers not merely as good nutrients, but also good in terms of fulfilling one’s rightful ‘duty to be well’. We have seen that the pleasures derived from foods, especially the ability of food to fulfil sensual desires, are, in Kantian terms, rationalised through self-problematisation. The resulting anxiety – some might say guilt – is the result of the relationship between the government and the ethics of nutrition. The terms and conditions for self-problematisation are of course always mortgaged to the concerns and priorities nutrition sets for itself. As noted in earlier chapters, the speed with which new imperatives sweep over the nutrition landscape is startling. And the past decade has witnessed a rapid transformation of a problem which has been a recurring theme in nutrition: fatness and corpulence in individuals and populations. The current focus on individual body size and girth has increased the way in which the choosing subject – the subject of food choice – has been problematised.