Obesity, Race and the Indigenous Origins of Health Risks Among Mexican Mestizos

Abril Saldana-Tejeda, Peter Wade

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We explore the discourses of Mexican scientists and doctors on genetics and obesity and how these relate to ideas about race, class and national identity. Drawing on interviews with geneticists and doctors treating obese children , the paper makes two contributions to the literature on race and medical science. First, although our data reveal familiar racializing tendencies among geneticists, a more nuanced view is needed, as medical doctors who are sceptical about genetic explanations nevertheless tend to racialize, using more environmental and cultural explanations, which adduce epigenetic mechanisms. Second, rather than focusing on minority groups, as in much literature on racialization and genetics, in Mexico ideas about racialized genetic (and cultural) ancestry also impinge on the majority “mestizo” (mixed-race) population, opening broader panoramas of racialized pathologization. These two factors represent an overall strengthening of discourses of race in Mexico and probably in much of Latin America.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEthnic and racial studies
Early online date4 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


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