From Colonial to International Nutritional Standards: the Episteme of Human Variation and the Biopolitics of Difference (1932–1951)

August 28 |
11:00 to 13:00
Colloquium Series MPR-Group Lipphardt
Max Planck Research Group Lipphardt
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Villa, Harnackstraße 5, 14195 Berlin
Maria Letitia Galluzzi Bizzo (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)
Nutrient recommendations are charged with social, ethical and historical meaning. This paper examines how the episteme of the human variation, originating in colonial practices, was articulated with social conjunctures, historical contexts and tacit cultural assumptions, in the shaping of an authoritative, international rule of difference regarding human nutritional standards. Constructed by the League of Nations (1930s) and later by the FAO (1950s) by scientists formed in the ‘live laboratories’ of the colonies, they became programmatic constructs in medical governance and scientific initiatives. They consisted in lower calories patterns (in comparison to those delivered for the Western peoples) and locally based (instead of international) nutrition standards, and involved the employment of more rudimentary methods of evaluation of body nutritional status as well. The paper will explore the biological and social arguments that grounded nutritional standards, and their underlying scientific and political ambiguities.