Else Vogel

Winner Dissertation Prize 2018

Subjects of care: Living with overweight in the Netherlands.

Supervisor: Prof. dr. A. Mol
Co-supervisor: Prof. dr. A.J. Pols
Nomination: University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Report of the selection committee

‘Subjects of care’ combines philosophical reflection with ethnographic research into care for overweight people in a unique way. The researcher joined dieticians, psychologists and surgeons, and carefully studied people who undergo treatment in clinics, sports schools and mindfulness training.

In this way Else Vogel sought alternatives to the standard approach that sees overweight as the result of too much food and too little exercise. Her analysis makes it plausible that this standard approach has political implications too. The mechanistic view of overweight as a purely physical problem leads to forms of care aimed at responsibility and self-control.

This research charts alternative approaches that focus on the broader context in which overweight is experienced as a problem, and the way in which people approach life. The perspective outlined is therefore applicable not only to the issue of obesity, but also to other efforts at so-called ‘human or citizen improvement’.

In ‘Subjects of Care’ the jury recognizes the hand of an independent researcher who conducts fieldwork, argues her case and adopts a position. Moreover, the author does not shy away from her own role as researcher, an aspect appreciated by the jury.