Embodied politics: health promotion, migrant activism and neoliberalism

When February 12, 2019, 2:30 PM - February 12, 2019, 4:00 PM
Where Bonnie E. Cone University Center, Room 210
Website http://ethics.uncc.edu
Speaker(s) Rebecca J. Hester, assistant professor, Department of Science, Technology and Society, Virginia Tech
Registration Details & Deadlines none
Cost $0.00
Who is Invited General Public, UNC Charlotte Campus community
Parking Details Validated parking tickets will be available for off-campus attendees. Bring your parking ticket with you to be validated. See visitors parking.

Public Lecture, February 12, 2019, Cone 210

In this introduction to her forthcoming book, Embodied Politics, Hester will argue that there are two predominant theoretical approaches to health and its promotion, both of which are based in an activist politics.


On the one hand, we think of health as a social justice “good,” especially for vulnerable populations living in a neoliberal system that produces inequity. Given this understanding of health, pro-migrant activists want to promote it wherever and whenever we can as a means to offset health inequities and as a matter of physical survival for migrants.


On the other hand, critical health scholars see health as a hyper-capitalist “bad” insofar as it promotes neoliberal citizenship, high individualism and market-based medicalization, especially since the 1970’s. These scholars argue that health promotion is a technique of governmentality that forwards a politics that is antithetical to a social justice agenda and that undermines the cultural beliefs and values of migrant subjects. From this critical perspective, both migrant freedom and cultural survival are at stake.


While acceding that both of these theoretical approaches have important explanatory value, she argues that neither fully captures the ways that indigenous Mexican migrants use, promote, and think about health in their everyday lives. Using ethnographic data collected during several years of field work with an indigenous Mexican migrant organization in California, she shows how migrants deploy a pragmatic politics that is attentive to both their physical and cultural survival. Rooted in the idea of praxiography, she calls this theoretical approach to migrant health “embodied politics.” Attention to an embodied politics can shed new light on older theoretical approaches to health, and provide a fresh perspective on assimilationist narratives in immigration studies.