Amherst Professor Deborah Gewertz Receives National Science Foundation Grant for Research on Fats

September 16, 2005
Director of Media Relations
413/542-8417

AMHERST, Mass.—Deborah Gewertz, the G. Henry Whitcomb 1874 Professor of Anthropology at Amherst College, and her colleague Frederick Errington from Trinity College (Hartford), have received a grant of $99,961 from the National Science Foundation to support their research on the burgeoning trade in fatty meats-and the growth in obesity-in the developing world.

The sale of fatty meats from the developed to the developing world has become controversial because diet-related life-style diseases are becoming more common in the developing world. Gewertz and Errington are investigating the trade of lamb and mutton flaps (sheep bellies) as they are exported from New Zealand and Australia into Papua New Guinea Fiji.

"Most broadly, this project will be an important case study of the workings of global trade," Gewertz and Errington note, "the workings of international markets in shaping and in responding to local economies, diets and governmental concerns. This new information will be relevant to public debates about the appropriate relationships between national sovereignty and consumer choice in a global marketplace. In essence, these are debates about whether the market should be regulated by governments deciding what is best for their citizens or be regulated by consumers deciding what is best for themselves."

Anthropologists who will study how this Pacific trade works, Gewertz and Errington are asking what sorts of understandings it takes to drive this trade. As ethnographers they will analyze how relationships are maintained with a diverse range of importers and distributors, and in their field work they will study how and why Papua New Guinean and Fijian consumers embrace or eschew such cuts of meat, and how the governments of Papua New Guinea and Fiji reach decisions about what is good for their citizens, decisions which may go against consumer desires.

The National Science Foundation is an independent U.S. government agency responsible for promoting science and engineering through programs that invest more than $3 billion a year in almost 20,000 research and education projects. Amherst College is currently using almost $5 million in such grants.

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