Else Vogel

Else Vogel, trained in anthropology, STS and psychology, is a post-doctoral researcher in the Anthropology department of the University of Amsterdam. Among her research interests are practices of (self-)care, mind/body relations, modes of critique, meanings of health in relation to food and eating, material semiotics and biopolitics.

After finishing her PhD project in the “Eating Bodies” team, Else became involved in a new research project affiliated with Sarphati Amsterdam, in which she studies the local effects and normativities of a new city-wide policy program aimed at the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity. The overall aim of this project is to understand the socio-material relations through which health practices are problematized, sustained and changed.

Her PhD dissertation, defended cum laude in October 2016, is entitled “Subjects of Care: Living with overweight in the Netherlands”. As statistics suggest that in the Netherlands and elsewhere being overweight has become an ‘epidemic’ and major public health concern, individuals are often admonished to take control of their weight. They should make so-called healthy choices and engage in good behavior. In her research, Else articulates alternatives to such calls for bodily discipline. She derives these alternatives from an ethnographic study of care practices for people who classify as overweight or obese, or who feel fat or at risk of becoming so. Else’s fieldwork included techniques as diverse as dietary recommendations, exercise regimes, meditation, tasting, diet shakes and surgery. Her work brings out how people, in these practices, (are taught to) relate to their bodies; how they control, attend to, enjoy, care for and attempt to change themselves; and how their daily lives are reconfigured in the process. As different forms of care shape subjects in different ways, the dissertation shows the situated, complex normative negotiations behind the alternatives she found. Rather than engaging in distant criticism, it thus opens up a new evaluative field, offering new ways of deliberating about care practices for, and life with, overweight.