The self of self-care: the case of obesity surgery
Else Vogel (Linköping University)
Paper short abstract:
This presentation lays out techniques of the self that patients having undergone weight loss surgery in the Netherlands employ despite of, or afforded by, the changes the surgery brought about and discusses some implications of moving beyond technologies of the self that involve liberal agents.
Paper long abstract:
In the Netherlands, people diagnosed as 'morbidly obese' increasingly undergo gastric bypass surgery. In this procedure, the intestinal system is rearranged to limit both food intake and uptake. This may suggest that surgery corrects from the outside and thus relieves patients from the difficult task of taking control over their behavior. In the Dutch obesity clinic where I did fieldwork, surgery is part of a more elaborate care assemblage - consisting of dieticians, exercise coaches and psychologists. There, the changed body implies a new, potentially disrupting, reality that patients must learn to cope with. Thus an equally drastic transformation is deemed important in which it is not the obese body, but the person that is targeted: a self is carved out (encouraged, cultivated) that can then engage in self-care. Drawing on interviews with patients and observations of clinical sessions, I trace techniques of the self that patients can employ despite of, or thanks to, the changes the surgery brought about. The self of self-care does not carry a 'burden of freedom' (cf. Nikolas Rose) as it struggles to adhere to biomedical regimes. Rather, it is concerned with acquiring a relation to oneself and developing tools to do what is best for it. The self that emerges throughout the treatment is both distinct from the body and embodied; both actively in control and socially and materially embedded. Thus, the presentation discusses some implications of moving beyond technologies of the self that involve liberal agents.
Bodies out of bounds: anthropological approaches to obesity practices