Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

Medical Knowledge, Nutrition and Social Change: An Inquiry into the Politics of Life in Late Socialist Romania

Fri31  Mar12:50pm(20 mins)
Gilbert Scott Room 253


Mara Marginean1
1 Romanian Academy, Cluj branch, Romania


By the late 1960s, the growing international expertise on nutrition, caloric standards, and dietary regulations emerged as a central field of intellectual interest for the Romanian socialist state. Such attention strategically conveyed the bureaucratic nation-state's goal to develop by grounding organizational modernization initiatives into the new domain of "the government of life". While transfers of knowledge and professional interactions in various political and institutional settings have recently become essential dimensions of a renewed interest in late-socialist attempts to "go global", little is known about how ECE states employed this emerging international expertise to tackle domestic social and economic shifts, and even less in the intertwined domains of nutrition, institutional development, and labor in this (semi)peripheral region.

My paper analyzes nutrition regulations between the 1960s and 1980s in Romania, focusing on the state's effort to convey knowledge into organizational structures and actions, and articulate social hierarchies and normalizing everyday taxonomies. It focuses on the mutual constituencies between medical knowledge production, state-developing practices, and social responses and questions the strategies behind turning "food" into "nutrition" and "nutrition" into a domain of political concern, regulation, and maximization during the socialist period.