A Multilayered Ethnography of Functional Medicine
328 Pages, 8 b&w images, 2 tables
Sales Date: April 11, 2023
How functional medicine leverages systems biology and epigenetic science to treat the microbiome and reverse chronic disease.
Each body is a system within a system—an ecology within the larger context of social, political, economic, cultural, and environmental factors. This is one of the lessons of epigenetics, whereby structural inequalities are literally encoded in our genes. But our ecological embeddedness extends beyond DNA, for each body also teems with trillions of bacteria, yeast, and fungi, all of them imprints of our individual milieus. Nested Ecologies asks what it would mean to take seriously our microbial being, given that our internal ecologies are shaped by inequalities embedded in our physical and social environments.
Further, Rosalynn Vega argues that health practices focused on patients’ unique biology inadvertently reiterate systemic inequities. In particular, functional medicine—which attempts to heal chronic disease by leveraging epigenetic science and treating individual microbiomes—reduces illness to problems of “lifestyle,” principally diet, while neglecting the inability of poor people to access nutrition. Functional medicine thus undermines its own critique of the economics of health care. Drawing on novel digital ethnographies and reflecting on her own experience of chronic illness, Vega challenges us to rethink not only the determinants of well-being but also what it is to be human.
This work is at the cutting edge of a critical, and integrative, medical anthropology. In addition, the auto-ethnography positions this book to be read broadly, across audiences interested in the social sciences and medicine as well as in classrooms. A fantastic and necessary book.
— Agustín Fuentes, Princeton University, author of Race, Monogamy, and Other Lies They Told You: Busting Myths about Human Nature
- Prelude: Anthropology of and for Healing
- Interlude: The Birth of an Anthropologist
- Chapter 1: Paradigm Shifts
- Interlude: Stuck in a Web of Chronic Disease
- Chapter 2: Systems Biology
- Interlude: Genetic Fate?
- Chapter 3: (Epi)genetics and Its Multiple Implications
- Interlude: A “Vampire” No More
- Chapter 4: The Political Ecology of “Human” Microbiology
- Chapter 5: The Social Microbiome
- Interlude: Toxicity
- Conclusion: Food Justice
- Postlude: Health Is a Process
- Appendix: Persons Described in This Book
- Works Cited