Food Biomedicalization and Self-Tracking Technologies: How Is “Healthy Ageing Body” (re)Defined?

Friday, 20 July 2018: 16:00
Oral Presentation
Myriam DUROCHER, Université de Montréal, Canada
This communication draws from the emerging literature on self-tracking technologies (e.g., Katz and Marshall, forthcoming) and the biomedicalization of food (Kim, 2013), observable through the multiplication of food knowledge and the development of individualizing technologies (e.g. MyFitnessPal) that help individuals to exercise control and transform their bodies from the inside (Clarke et al. 2000), to critically questions: What forms of ageing bodies are produced at the intersection of these fields of research? In a context where seniors are enjoined to take responsibility for their own health (Powell and Wahidin, 2006), in order to avoid the “inevitabilities of aging” (Powell, 2006, p. x), how are healthy ageing bodies articulated?

Health enhancement and self-tracking are not new (Katz and Marshall, forthcoming), neither are they in relation to food (Crawford & al., 2015). Although, they now happen within a society permeated by healthism discourses (Crawford, 1980) that contribute to defining “successful ageing” (Katz, 2013) by the maintenance of a good health (Power and Polzner, 2016). Seniors are enjoined to “embrace the potential of longevity through the daily acts of eating.” (Powell, 2006, p. x), by the consumption of “functional food”, namely food characterised by the causal relationship drawn between food’s biochemical properties and their alleged effects on bodies (e.g. medicalxpress.com, 2017, « Studies link healthy brain aging to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood »). Hence, through its biomedicalization, food becomes a new site of health governance “where the risks of chronic diseases should be managed” (Kim, 2013).

Following Katz and Marshall’s (2016) work over the “speculative futures of ageing”, this paper critically examines how food biomedicalization and self-tracking technologies contribute to (re)defining “healthy” aging bodies and new normativities.