Experimenting with Life’s Potential

Experimenting with Life’s Potential: The Bio-Politics of Nutrition

Robyn Smith

Robyn Smith's project worked with the claim that the social sciences can use the data of the life sciences to inform and nuance our understanding of "bodies." Smith suggested that a history of the vitamin concept reveals a source of complexity in life and suggest further that such allows a re-formulation of the problems of our bodies as nutritional bodies. That is, it is necessary to use the concept of the vitamins, as developed in biology, to complexify our sense of life and therefore to pose new problems for thinking ourselves as embodied subjects. Smith argued that with the acquired knowledge of the science of vitamins, the body of the social sciences is further nuanced and articulated. The inclusion of this biological data into the social sciences requires a re-problematization within the social sciences, and this re-problematization can be characterized as an experiment, as it is a site at which the embodied subject becomes increasingly differentiated. By inserting the vitamin concept into our analysis of ourselves as nutritional subjects our individuation as nutritional subjects is complexified.

Such experimentation is crucial to a vital social science precisely insofar as creativity and the production of new social relations are essential to the development of biopolitics. Experiments with the vitamins in the social sciences will allow the social sciences to counter overly hasty simplifications of the body emerging from the natural sciences. Such experimentation within the social sciences will allow for the development of more than one account of the same phenomena and will therefore contribute to what Bruno Latour refers to as an arsenal against the insidious development of biopower. As against a reductionist account of ourselves as nutritional subjects, an experiment with vitamins by social scientists thus enables us in the development of new relations of biopolitics.

Funding Institutions

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada