In May 1891, the London Vegetarian Society held a meeting in Portsmouth. Present were not just English, but also two Indian members, T.T. Majumdar and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, both students of law in London. For Gandhi, later one of the leading figures in the Indian independence movement, membership in the London Vegetarian Society was a formative experience. It allowed him to discover vegetarianism as an ethically motivated choice and integrate it into a philosophy of non-violence. The encounter was not a singular instance. It was part of a larger entanglement between European vegetarianism and India.   In order to buttress what was then a fringe lifestyle, vegetarians in Europe made frequent reference to meat abstention in other parts of the…

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The decision, whether taking stairs or the escalator is the better choice, has been charged with a new socio-political dimension lately. Both speed and convenience do hardly matter, yet it has turned into a question of fitness and health. As the Fitbit advertisement points out, “fitness is the sum of your life.” It can be found between beginnings and endings or between high and low ends of the exercise spectrum. Gone are the times when physical activity was confined to particular spaces reserved for heavy exercise—like gyms. Today we live in an almost endless sea of fitness opportunities, called: your daily life. Of major importance in this change is the popular trend of logging one’s activities with digital tracking devices,…

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“I know you’re sick. It’s all that whiteman junk food we eat,” the elderly Aboriginal protagonist Charlie remarks towards his terminally ill friend. The Australian drama Charlie’s Country (directed by Rolf de Heer), which had its world premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival in October 2013, presents a fictional engagement with community life in the Northern Territory after the implementation of the Intervention. De Heer’s film emphatically addresses Indigenous people’s disadvantages—especially in relation to food and health issues. Since healthier options are inaccessible, Charlie and his community rely on the unhealthy food they can buy from the general store of their community and are consequently made ill by their diet. Charlie would prefer to hunt rather than consume the “whiteman…

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On Sunday, April 30th 2017, Oprah Winfrey, probably America’s best known talk show host,  sat down for that day’s episode of her weekly talk series SuperSoul Sunday.  She met Geneen Roth, author of several self-help books on eating, dieting and women’s spiritual life. Geneen and Oprah talked about a topic seemingly accompanying both middle-aged women for almost their whole lifetime, their long lasting “struggles” with food, dieting and their body—leading to life-changing insights Roth digested in her best-selling book “Women, Food and God.” I will, first, explore that show as a gateway to think about how food and body are dealt with in popular media. The show stands as a powerful example for how food and eating have become an…

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In recent years, the concept “neoliberalism” has emerged to represent everything that is bad, or at least nothing good. Some have questioned whether the concept is so overused to the point of being meaningless. In public health, there has been an explosion of neoliberal analyses. In an editorial for Critical Public Health, Kirsten Bell and Judith Green lament the ”reductive ways neoliberalism often tends to be used.” One such reduction is the characterization of the beneficent welfare state as under-attack from maleficent neoliberalism. This characterization is not only simplistic, but it misunderstands the effects of neoliberalism on the provision of welfare. I suggest that the proliferation of “lifestyle” practices and policies can better help us understand the relationship between neoliberalism…

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