PhD defense Else Vogel

Oct '16

Subjects of care: Living with overweight in the Netherlands

by Else Vogel

Thursday, October 6, 14.00 – 15.30 h.

Agnietenkapel, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Oudezijds Voorburgwal 331, Amsterdam

*Please be on time! The doors will close at 14.00 sharp. Children younger than 8 are not allowed to attend.


Reception follows in café Zeppos.


If you have any questions, you may contact the paranymphs:

Rebeca Ibáñez Martín:

Stine Grinna:



Statistics suggest that in the Netherlands and elsewhere being overweight has become an ‘epidemic’ and major public health concern. In response 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 Vogel 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. Vogel’s fieldwork included techniques as diverse as dietary recommendations, exercise regimes, meditation, tasting, diet shakes and surgery. These do not just intervene in the bodies of the people involved, but also reconfigure their lives. They change everyday practices and their meaning – from cooking and eating, to pain and pleasure; from shopping for food, to being a family. However, different forms of care help to shape daily life in different ways. Vogel argues that there is no ‘natural’ imperative for how to best care for body weight, that would be handed to us by solid facts about foods and human bodies. Instead, she shows the situated, complex normative negotiations behind the alternatives she found. Questions such as which self-care practices should be supported, how this might be done and what should be most valued while doing so, are left open. Her study is thus not out to provide definite answers. Rather than giving another verdict, this dissertation opens up a new evaluative field. It offers original ways of deliberating about care practices for, and life with, overweight.