Corporations and Incorporations

Jul '15


On behalf of the Eating Bodies & Chemical Youth projects, I would like to invite you to the roundtable workshop Corporations and Incorporations, to be held the afternoon of July 1 (14:00-17:30— dinner to follow), with presentations from Gyorgy Scrinis, Emily Yates-Doerr, and Anita Hardon.

We will roundtable three papers that empirically examine food corporations, spatial boundaries, and social science research methods. Papers will be pre-circulated, but unlike many of our events you are not obliged to read these in advance. Instead, each paper will begin with a short summary of its author’s key arguments, desired interferences, and current blockages. We encourage you to bring your own research and related questions to the discussion.

Please let me know if you think you might attend (so I can book a suitable room and send you the papers) and if you might come for dinner (so I can secure this reservation as well).

With kind regards,


Tentative abstracts below:

Gyorgy Scrinis

Nutritionism and Big Food Corporations’ Nutritional Strategies

The world’s largest food and beverage manufacturing corporations (i.e. Big Food) have responded to recent health concerns associated with their processed foods by developing and marketing a range of ‘healthy’ or ‘healthier’ products. There are three nutritional strategies that I will identify that define these corporations’ nutritional engineering and marketing strategies: the micronutrient fortification of foods to address nutrient deficiencies; the reformulation of products to reduce harmful food components; and the ‘functionalisation’ of foods marketed as providing optimal nutrition through addition of functional nutrients. These nutritional strategies draw their scientific legitimacy from what I call the ideology of nutritionism – the reductive focus on and interpretation of nutrients. Each nutritional strategy is also associated with the three successive paradigms that have been dominant over the past century—the quantifying, good-and-bad, and functional paradigms of nutritionism. Each of these nutritional paradigms is associated with distinct ways of understanding and engaging with nutrients and food, and ways of representing and experiencing the body and bodily health. I will explore the ways in which Big Food corporations have captured or appropriated these nutritional strategies and discourses as a means of growing the market for their products, as well as to avoid more restrictive government regulations.

Dr Gyorgy Scrinis is a Lecturer in Food and Nutrition Politics and Policy in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Melbourne. He is the author of Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice (Columbia University Press, 2013)

Emily Yates-Doerr (AISSR)
Material-Semiotic Indeterminacy: Reworking ‘Social Determinants of Health’ through Praxiography

The emergence of ‘social determinants of health’ as a prominent global health framework signals a shift in focus away from individual and toward environmental conditions of disease. Many laud the social determinants framework for addressing the ‘root causes’ of illness in its focus on poverty. Through analysis of a maternal health nutrition initiative sponsored by Guatemalan officials who would resign amidst corruption, this paper suggests that the social determinants framework risks remaking conditions of inequality by prioritizing – and targeting – a narrowly defined form of health. I suggest that praxiography offers alternative tools for analyzing, and thereby impacting, health. Whereas ‘social determinants’ enacts health as the calculable outcome of inequality, praxiography – the writing of practices – recognizes the malleability and fluidity of the ‘objects’ at hand. I close by advocating for the importance of descriptive politics, that is, politics that make space for indeterminacy, rather than the prescriptive politics deployed in the field of global health’s framing of health as determinant.

Anita Hardon (AISSR)

Nutritional cure-­alls in motion

This paper examines the multi­level marketing (MLM) of two nutritional cure-­alls in the Philippines. The first C24/7 is an American product promoted by AIM global as a high­tech capsule produced, which is said to cure 100 health problems, from cancer to depression. It works 24/7—24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The “C” stands for the product’s various “actions” at the cellular level, including “cellular rejuvenation”, “cellular repair”, “cardio protection”, and “cancer protection”. The second, Vita, is a sweetened juice, developed by a Filipino community doctor. It is made from five local herbal medicines and branded as an indigenous product, while promoted for the same conditions as C24/7. Multi­level marketing (MLM)­ a significant industry in the Philippines ­ is an entrepreneurial business model that has attracted attention from anthropologists for its ability to “lure” the poor into the dreams of consumer capitalism. People become involved in the direct selling of products, and more significantly, in recruiting new members. Ethnographic research conducted in Puerto Princesa shows how Filipino MLM companies call on young people to use the products and to sell them to family members and aging community members, thus giving them agency in community health. Being a member of the MLM companies is attractive to the youth, as it provides them with access to computers, bankcards, discounts on education and global travel for those who succeed. The paper ends with a reflection of the way in which the nutritional cure­alls generate efficacies in the local family networks