The Law of Self-Eating—Milk, Placenta, and Feces Consumption
Humans have consumed nearly every human body part. Today, the consumption of milk, placenta, and feces, in particular, is on the rise. Milk, placenta, and feces circulate directly among people given that no medical expertise is required to consume them in unprocessed form, but they are also distributed by institutionalized medical entities (e.g., biobanks, hospitals, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, or cosmetic companies). They are considered simultaneously valuable (as they are typically donated gratuitously and primarily used for nutritional, health, and research purposes) and dangerous (as they can transmit viruses, bacteria, parasites, and pollutants). This article has two main goals. First, in examining the social meanings of milk, placenta, and feces consumption, it considers whether and how the circulation of these bio-commodities shapes the limits of human bodies and communities. Second, it asks whether there is something different or specific about the way in which self-consumption (i.e., the consumption of human body materials by humans) is regulated compared to that of foods, drugs, and supplements derived from animal bodies, plants, or other non-human sources.