121 – Heather Paxson

Posted by on Apr 12, 2018
121 – Heather Paxson

Dominic and Cymene plug Cultures of Energy 7—this year’s energy humanities symposium at Rice which begins today, details at culturesofenergy.org—and then they turn to cheese, why it’s funny, how it can be applied to cats, “cheddaring,” and much more. Is there an anthropologist who knows more about cheese than anyone? Yes of course there is, it’s MIT’s Heather Paxson, author of the award-winning The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America (U California Press, 2012). She joins us (14:59) to talk about her research on the microbiopolitics of food and naturally we begin with what’s in her fridge. Heather tells us about her investigation of artisanal cheesemaking and what it tells us about the shift from Pasteurian to Post-Pasteurian regimes of microbiopower. We hear about goat ladies as revolutionaries, the truth about vegan cheese, and debate whether artisanal foodmaking is an elite project. Heather discusses the search for moral meaning in everyday life as a throughline in her work and we turn to her latest research on food safety inspections, the porosity of food borders and the synecdochic reasoning of the state when it comes to managing food flows. We close by discussing the impact of feminist analytics of labor in her research. What is “beef candy China”? Listen on and you might just find out!