The Microbiopolitics of American Cheese: From Food Safety to Border Security
by Heather Paxson
Wageningen Geography Lectures 2016 - 2017
The concept of microbiopolitics calls attention to how the governance of human social life may take into account microbial life. This paper contrasts and seeks to reconcile “Pasteurian” and “post-Pasteurian” attitudes about how best to live with microbes as these have emerged in debates over the viability and safety regulation of raw-milk cheese produced in the United States. Moving to a different set of biopolitics at stake in living with microbes, the paper then introduces preliminary research on the regulation of food at the U.S. border carried out in the name of agricultural biosecurity as well as public health.
Heather Paxson is the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Anthropology at MIT (Boston, USA). She is interested in how people craft a sense of themselves as moral beings through everyday practices, especially those activities having to do with family and food. She is the author of two ethnographic monographs: Making Modern Mothers: Ethics and Family Planning in Urban Greece (University of California Press, 2004) and The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America (University of California Press, 2012). Her recent work explores domestic artisanal cheese and the people who make it, analyzing how craftwork has become a new source of cultural and economic value within American landscapes of production and consumption. (https://anthropology.mit.edu/people/faculty/heather-paxson)