Dr Nina Mackert - Eat Your Way to Health. On the Emergence of Health as Ability in the early Twentieth Century US

The 2020 HOTCUS Winter Symposium

Brought to you in partnership between the David Bruce Centre for American Studies and the Institute for Liberal Arts and Sciences. This lecture will form the keynote speech as part of the 2020 Historians of the Twentieth Century United States (HOTCUS) Winter Symposium. HOTCUS exists to facilitate and promote scholarship in the field of twentieth century American history.

Eat Your Way to Health. On the Emergence of Health as Ability in the early Twentieth Century US

The popularization of the calorie, the emergence of weighing scales in private households, countless of diet advice manuals: In the early twentieth century, a range of phenomena in western consumer societies contributed to the circulation of new knowledge on bodies, their diet and health. They were all based on the idea of helping people to help themselves and to improve their health and diet on their own initiative. Health was increasingly considered to be something that people could achieve through proper self-conduct. A healthy body—now more and more envisioned as a slim body—became a marker of education, self-control, and self-discipline, and thus of abilities that were regarded as core abilities of liberal citizenship. At the same time, the new ideas of eating right faced heavy criticism for endangering the desired self-determination of Americans, most notably American men, by privileging abstract principles instead of individual choices. By focusing on the history of calorie counting, the talk shows how in the early twentieth century, health became an ability and contributed to making and remaking the social order.

Dr Nina Mackert is a senior researcher in an interdisciplinary research group on global health at the University of Leipzig. She received her PhD in North American history at the University of Erfurt in 2012 and has since published on the history of food, nutrition, health, and bodies. She is co-editor of the academic blog FoodFatnessFitness.com and the journal Body Politics. Currently, she is working on a history of the food calorie in the US.

Refreshments will be available from 3.30pm onwards.

This lecture is free and all are welcome to attend.

Event date
Event Time
Keele Hall - The Salvin Room
Dr David T. Ballantyne and Steve Kilner
Contact email
Contact telephone
Dr David T Ballantyne 01782 7 34409 or Steve Kilner 01782 7 34449

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