Athia Choudhury Receives Honorable Mention From the American Studies Association

Athia Choudhury

The American Studies Association — the oldest and largest scholarly association devoted to the interdisciplinary study of U.S. cultures and histories — announced the recipients of their 2023 awards and prizes.

Postdoctoral Associate in Asian American and Diaspora Studies Athia Choudhury received an honorable mention for her dissertation “Gut Cultures: Fat Matter(s) in Genealogies of Health, Nation, and Empire.”

In the dissertation, Choudhury conceptualizes the emergence of “health” as a vital dimension to U.S. and Third World nation-building in the 20th century. This dissertation turns to the obscured relationship between modern formulations of health in the U.S. and legacies of empire and militarism in eating cultures across Asia, North America, and the Pacific. “Gut Cultures” examines how U.S. public health policy around fat production and consumption (of oils, meats, and dairy) charts a transformation of colonial sensibilities around race and gender into empirical data sets on health, eugenics, and evolutionary potential.

The chapters traverse an array of historical flashpoints of wellness foods and technologies: the military and weight-loss circuits of powdered/skim milk during World War II, the mid-century home economics movement that popularized vernacular use of the calorie, the competing narratives of food aid and the starving Asian body during the Bengal Famine of 1943, and contemporary performances of the over-eating Asian mouth in environmental media and popular culture. “Gut Cultures” interrogates how wellness and diet culture become major ideological exports of U.S. empire that produce global consumers whose nutritional and medical decisions become racially coded and gendered.