Metabolic Living: Food, Fat and the Absorption of Illness in India

Harris Solomon
The popular narrative of "globesity" posits that the adoption of Western diets is intensifying obesity and diabetes in the Global South and that disordered metabolisms are the embodied consequence of globalization and excess. In Metabolic Living Harris Solomon recasts these narratives by examining how people in Mumbai, India, experience the porosity between food, fat, the body, and the city. Solomon contends that obesity and diabetes pose a problem of absorption between body and environment. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Mumbai's home kitchens, metabolic disorder clinics, food companies, markets, and social services, he details the absorption of everything from snack foods and mangoes to insulin, stress, and pollutants. As these substances pass between the city and the body and blur the two domains, the onset and treatment of metabolic illness raise questions about who has the power to decide what goes into bodies and when food means life. Evoking metabolism as a condition of contemporary urban life and a vital political analytic, Solomon illuminates the lived predicaments of obesity and diabetes, and reorients our understanding of chronic illness in India and beyond.