Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Think Pieces

Vol 5 No 5 (2018)

Relocating obesity with multiauthor ethnography

  • Elliott Michael Reichardt
June 19, 2018
December 19, 2018


Reflecting on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) account of obesity and recent developments in ethnography, I advocate for a collaborative, multiauthor approach to studying obesity and, more broadly, chronic disease. To illustrate this, I show how recent ethnographies of obesity and metabolism have convincingly challenged and reframed the WHO’s account of obesity. I further suggest that future ethnographic studies of obesity (and chronic disease) could expand their analytical scope – without sacrificing a critical and people-centred approach – through coordination and collaboration. A multiauthor approach to obesity research would increase the capacity of ethnography to demonstrate the many conditions that must be fulfilled for a person to become ‘obese’, productively foregrounding how ‘obesity’ emerges out of a web of social, economic, political, chemical, and historical connections. This would enable a more comprehensive understanding of the uneven emergence of obesity (and other chronic diseases) worldwide.