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The government and ethics of nutrition

Coveney, John (1996) The government and ethics of nutrition. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Nutritional or dietary sciences have gained a high level of visibility in Western cultures, especially over the past three decades, through their application in health promotion campaigns. Dietary goals and guidelines have been formulated throughout the developed world where the food supply itself has become invested with signs and slogans promoting the nutritional properties of food products. Modem consumers have been shown to value nutrition information, to have a greater awareness of nutritional knowledge, and to be making more food choices on the basis of nutritional merits than ever before. In chronicling the emergence of nutrition, accounts usually emphasise various scientific discoveries made in nutritional science over the last one hundred and fifty years, or nineteenth century social and moral concerns about the importance of 'good' food. Within these accounts, however, the position of the subject - which is always assumed to be that of the universal, autonomous subject of modernity - remains untheorised. This thesis uses Foucault's genealogical approach to explain how, as a technology of power, nutrition developed out of concerns to know and manage individuals and populations, especially in terms of the body, food and health. It also examines the way that, as a technology of the self, nutrition was pre-figured by moral problems about food and pleasure which can be traced to antiquity. Foucault's understanding of govemmentality is employed to illustrate how modern individuals are constructed as subjects of food choice through a government of nutrition via the deployment of knowledges and programmes around a science of food and health, and through an ethics of nutrition in which individuals problematise themselves as moral subjects in relation to their concerns and desires about food choice.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): McHoul, Alec, Bishop, Peter and Mansfield, Alan
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