Through examination of four examples from contemporary metabolic sciences, this article characterizes the rise of a postindustrial metabolism. Concerned with regulation, timing, and information, this emergent metabolism is analyzed as a shift away from the factory or motor model of classic metabolism, in which food was fuel, providing energy and building blocks to the body. Accordingly, metabolic disorders—treatments for which are the explicit aim of much of this research—are increasingly explained and intervened in as regulatory crises, asynchronies, or instances of misinformation. Close examination of the explanatory frameworks and experimental design of the contemporary metabolic sciences answers, with some specificity, the question of the knowledge effects of obesity and diabetes research, or fat knowledge.
Postindustrial Metabolism: Fat Knowledge
Hannah Landecker holds a joint appointment in the Department of Sociology and the Institute for Society and Genetics at the University of California Los Angeles. She is the author of Culturing Life: How Cells Became Technologies (2007). She is currently working on a book called “American Metabolism” that looks at transformations to the metabolic sciences wrought by the rise of epigenetics, microbiomics, cell signaling, and hormone biology. A related project concerns the history of metabolic hormones after 1960 and the rise of the cellular “signal” as a central category of thought and practice in the life sciences.
Hannah Landecker; Postindustrial Metabolism: Fat Knowledge. Public Culture 1 September 2013; 25 (3 (71)): 495–522. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-2144625
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