Interembodiment, Inheritance, and Intergenerational Health


This article introduces the concept of interembodiment, animated bodily entanglements between people, to illustrate the shared sense of illness that transgresses discrete biological bodies. Drawing on 15 months of ethnographic research in Senegal, West Africa, this article expands common understandings of inheritance and intergenerational health by exploring how women caring for others with metabolic disorders come to interembody the afflicted’s symptoms, regardless of their own diagnostic status. These experiences trouble the clear distinction between communicability and noncommunicability and disrupt Western understandings of unshared biologies. Through the concept of interembodiment, we can see how noncommunicable diseases come to be communicated. Interembodiment helps explain aspects of intergenerational health between mothers and daughters and allows for broader understandings that encompass multiple biologies. Shifting the focus of health and illness from the individual to multiple interembodied biologies allows for a more nuanced understanding of disease and disease transmission, which could enable global health and public health programs to better address noncommunicable diseases around the world.