Food Security in the Americas: Race, Nutrition, and Obesity


Wednesday, March 24, 2021, 6:00pm to 7:00pm

To view a recording of this event, click here.


Gerardo Otero, Simon Fraser University: “Neoliberal Diet and Inequality”

Janett Barragán Miranda, American University: "Eating Proper and the Racialization of Mexican Food in the United States"

Emily Yates-Doerr, Oregon State University and University of Amsterdam: “From BMI to Stunting: The Problem of/with Food Security in Guatemala”

Moderated by: Gabriela Soto Laveaga, Harvard University

While the foods we consume are often tied to culture, the rubrics that we use to measure nutrition are often linked to science. What happens when we bring in the element of race and class into the consumption of foods? Using three distinct cases in Mexico, Guatemala, and among Mexican immigrants in the United States this panel will highlight how food that is deemed "good for us" is often entangled more with the governance of immigrant and racialized bodies or economic options than nutrition. 

Gerardo Otero is Professor of International Studies at Simon Fraser University. He is a sociologist and political economist born and raised in Torreón, Coahuila, Mexico. His undergraduate degree is from Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, his M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin, and his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is professor of international studies at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. His work is about political economy of agriculture and food, civil society and the state in the Americas. He has published over one hundred scholarly articles, chapters and books. He is the author of Farewell to the Peasantry? Political Class Formation in Rural Mexico (Westview Press 1999, re-issued by Routledge in 2018). His latest monograph is: The Neoliberal Diet: Healthy Profits, Unhealthy People (University of Texas Press 2018). In 2020, Otero was elected Vice-President and President-Elect of the Latin American Studies Association. 

Janett Barragán Miranda is a Postdoctoral Fellow for Academic Diversity in the Department of History at American University. Her book project Hungering for Equality explores responses from experts, social workers, and ordinary people ignited by the exposé of hunger in the United States during the 1960s. She is currently working on a paper about the history of food boycotts culminating in the 1969 White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, and Health. She holds PhD, MA, and BA degrees in Chicana and Chicano Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Emily Yates-Doerr is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Oregon State University and the University of Amsterdam. She studies health systems, food justice, and social inequality. She is currently writing a book on the social history of Guatemala's "Ventana de Los Mil Dias" (Window of 1000 Days) maternal health program, which entails collaboration with health and human development experts in Guatemala. Her previous book, The Weight of Obesity: Hunger and Global Health in Postwar Guatemala, traced the emergence of public health concern for obesity in Guatemala's highlands. She has longterm interest in translational medicine, the racialized and gendered figurations of "the body" in health sciences, and methods of feminist anthropology.

Gabriela Soto Laveaga is Professor of the History of Science and Antonio Madero Professor for the Study of Mexico at Harvard University. Her current research interests interrogate knowledge production and circulation between Mexico and India; medical professionals and social movements; and science and development projects in the twentieth century. Her first book, Jungle Laboratories: Mexican Peasants, National Projects and the Making of the Pill (recently translated into Spanish by Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2020), won the Robert K. Merton Best Book prize in Science, Knowledge, and Technology Studies from the American Sociological Association. Her second monograph, Sanitizing Rebellion: Physician Strikes, Public Health and Repression in Twentieth Century Mexico, examines the role of healthcare providers as both critical actors in the formation of modern states and as social agitators. Her latest book project seeks to re-narrate histories of twentieth century agriculture development aid from the point of view of India and Mexico.

Presented in collaboration with the Department of the History of Science

See also: Virtual, Mexico