Treating Hunger: Medical Expertise, Nutritional Science, and the Development of Technical Food Solutions
This thesis traces the way hunger was transformed into a medical problem and humanitarian food relief mutated into medical treatment from the Second World War until contemporary times. I chart how the medicalization of hunger redefined the way hunger was managed, identifying the marked features of the medicalization of hunger and looking especially to the nutritional solutions employed in emergency contexts. Medical scrutiny into the starving body, the proliferation of medical categories, the design of specific and differentiated protocols of management, the integration of hunger with the care of other concurrent or aggravated medical conditions, and the view of food as medicine emerged in an expanded form starting with World War II and continue to endure today. A predominant medical lens urged the implementation of interventions guided by medical expertise and subjected to medical supervision, reconceptualizing hunger relief as treatment. Another focus of this thesis is upon the global networks of knowledge that underlie the medicalization of hunger. If professionals with a medical experience assumed prominence and continue to retain influence in nutrition, experts from all corners of the world with a range of backgrounds constitute the global assemblage of hunger research and responses. Finally, I underscore the increasing emphasis on children in scientific hunger studies and humanitarian nutrition programs. With the scientific community coalescing around the view of hunger as disease, humanitarian responses to hunger became increasingly technocratic, favoring efficient and largescale technically-engineered solutions devised with expert knowledge. I show the persistent allure of simple, fast-acting concoctions of high-yielding medical and nutritional efficacy in humanitarian nutrition. The predominance of technically-engineered solutions in humanitarian nutrition speaks both to an established reliance on medico-scientific knowledge and the prioritization of expedient responses in the face of the need for immediate action. Employing a historical lens, I challenge straightforward accounts anchored in medico-scientific knowledge that exalt the novelty and adequacy of technically-engineered solutions to hunger. I grapple with the implications of a predominant medical frame to argue that managing hunger in emergency contexts should not be incompatible with politically-mindful, people-centered approaches integrated in local realities.