Celebrating #AcBookWeek from Across the Pond

This week is #AcBookWeek in the United Kingdom, a week long celebration of the diversity, innovation, and influence of academic books. Follow the conversation on Twitter or on our blog via the #ACBook Week tag.

The influence of academic discourse on policy-makers and other influencers is well established, and we are happy to continue to publish scholarship that is both innovative and influential. As part of the UK’s Academic Book Week, we wanted to highlight some of our recent UK/EU-focused titles that we feel showcase the diversity, innovation, and influence of scholarly publishing.

Healing from Hate: How Young Men Get Into—and Out of—Violent Extremism
Michael Kimmel

What draws young men into violent extremist groups? What are the ideologies that inspire them to join? And what are the emotional bonds forged that make it difficult to leave, even when they want to? Having conducted in-depth interviews with ex–white nationalists and neo-Nazis in the United States, as well as ex-skinheads and ex-neo-Nazis in Germany and Sweden, renowned sociologist Michael Kimmel demonstrates the pernicious effects that constructions of masculinity have on these young recruits.


Constructions of Terrorism: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Research and Policy
edited by Michael Stohl, Richard Burchill, and Scott Howard Englund

Discussions about the meaning of terrorism are enduring in everyday language, government policy, news reporting, and international politics. And disagreements about both the definition and the class of violent events that constitute terrorism contribute to the difficulty of formulating effective responses aimed at the prevention and management of the threat of terrorism and the development of counterterrorism policies. Constructions of Terrorism collects works from the leading scholars on terrorism from an array of disciplines—including communication, political science, sociology, global studies, and public policy—to establish appropriate research frameworks for understanding how we construct our understanding of terrorism.


The Odyssey: A New Translation by Peter Green
Homer, translated by Peter Green

The Odyssey is vividly captured and beautifully paced in this swift and lucid new translation by acclaimed scholar and translator Peter Green. Accompanied by an illuminating introduction, maps, chapter summaries, a glossary, and explanatory notes, this is the ideal translation for both general readers and students to experience The Odyssey in all its glory. Green’s version, with its lyrical mastery and superb command of Greek, offers readers the opportunity to enjoy Homer’s epic tale of survival, temptation, betrayal, and vengeance with all of the verve and pathos of the original oral tradition.


Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom
Norman Finkelstein

Based on scores of human rights reports, Norman G. Finkelstein’s new book presents a meticulously researched inquest into Gaza’s martyrdom. He shows that although Israel has justified its assaults in the name of self-defense, in fact these actions constituted flagrant violations of international law. Finkelstein’s magnum opus is both a monument to Gaza’s martyrs and an act of resistance against the forgetfulness of history.



Brian O’Doherty: Collected Essays
Brian O’Doherty, edited by Liam Kelly

This long-awaited volume brings together much of Brian O’Doherty’s most influential writing, including essays on major figures such as Edward Hopper, Mark Rothko, and Andy Warhol, and a substantial follow-up to his iconic Inside the White Cube. New pieces specifically authored for this collection include a meditation on O’Doherty’s various alternate personae—most notably Patrick Ireland—and a reflection on his seminal “Highway to Las Vegas” from 1972, penned after a return visit in 2012.


The Doctor Faustus Dossier: Arnold Schoenberg, Thomas Mann, and Their Contemporaries, 1930-1951
edited by E. Randol Schoenberg

This complete edition of letters and documents between Arnold Schoenberg and Thomas Mann brings together two towering figures of twentieth-century music and literature, both of whom found refuge in Los Angeles during the Nazi era. Culminating in the famous dispute over Mann’s novel Doctor Faustus, the correspondence, diary entries, and related articles provide a glimpse inside the private and public lives of these two great artists, the outstanding figures of the German-exile community in California.


A History of Cookbooks: From Kitchen to Page over Seven Centuries
Henry Notaker

A History of Cookbooks provides a sweeping literary and historical overview of the cookbook genre, exploring its development as a part of food culture beginning in the Late Middle Ages. Studying cookbooks from various Western cultures and languages, Henry Notaker traces the transformation of recipes from brief notes with ingredients into detailed recipes with a specific structure, grammar, and vocabulary. In addition, he reveals that cookbooks go far beyond offering recipes: they tell us a great deal about nutrition, morals, manners, history, and menus while often providing entertaining reflections and commentaries.


Food and Power: A Culinary Ethnography of Israel
Nir Avieli

Drawing on ethnography conducted in Israel since the late 1990s, Food and Power considers how power is produced, reproduced, negotiated, and subverted in the contemporary Israeli culinary sphere. Nir Avieli explores issues such as the definition of Israeli cuisine, the ownership of hummus, the privatization of communal Kibbutz dining rooms, and food at a military prison for Palestinian detainees to show how cooking and eating create ambivalence concerning questions of strength and weakness and how power and victimization are mixed into a sense of self-justification that maintains internal cohesion among Israeli Jews.


“From Libel to Label”: Canners Focus on Research and Marketing

excerpted from Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry by Anna Zeide

In 1963, the NCA [National Canners Association] Research Laboratory celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. This commemoration included many events and articles glorifying the industry and all that it had accomplished.[1] One publication read, “Many people believe that the laboratories have been instrumental in making canned foods universally popular; this is an age of science and science has proved the safety and excellence of canned foods to a once unbelieving public.”[2] Another piece, entitled “Fifty Years of Winning Public Confidence Through NCA Research,” described how the early canning industry had devoted attention to battling libelous claims by improving their processing methods, whereas now the canning industry did not have to worry about such claims and could instead focus on topics like label design. The author wrote, “The shift in emphasis from libel to label … summarizes the successful history of the canning industry during this century.”[3]

Indeed, when botulism struck olives in 1920, canners had cried “Libel!” and hurried to both contain media attacks and carry out bacteriological research to solve the processing problems. But when another case of botulism struck canned tuna in 1963—the first significant outbreak in commercially canned foods in forty years—canners instead turned to the “label,” as they invested most heavily in advertising campaigns, trusting that those would suffice to maintain the industry’s image. When two Detroit women died in March 1963 after a lunch of canned tuna fish salad sandwiches, health officials did employ some of the same methods as they had in 1920.[4] They traced the deaths to botulism and to specific brands of canned tuna, which had been caught in Pacific waters, frozen in Japan, shipped to the United States, and commercially canned by the Washington Packing Corporation in San Francisco, California. The FDA seized the offending cans and forced the cannery to close. Consumers, too, had similar reactions—panicking and reducing their tuna purchases by 35 percent nationwide.[5]

But canners, for their part, turned less to bacteriological research and public health oversight than to assuring consumers that this kind of problem was insignificant, and would not happen again.[6] They were still confident in the industry’s processing methods, and the canners now had new marketing tools at their fingertips that they could deploy. The editor of the Canner/Packer, though he acknowledged the “tragedy of the two families,” had what he called a “typical reaction” upon hearing the news: “We thought as every food processor must have thought: ‘What kind of fuss will it raise? How will it affect sales?’” The main concern of the canning industry was its market, and the media portrayal of the incident. Newspapers, funded in large part by food industry advertisements, went easy on the canners.[7] One trade observer commented, “The newspapers didn’t play the potency of the toxin. They treated the two cans of tuna, as just two cans.” Still, processors understood that “the reputation of the entire food industry is dependent on each of those same cans,” and so they launched an expensive campaign to shore up that reputation.[8]

This was not a problem just for the tuna industry, or even for the larger canning industry. This was now a problem of the nation’s entire food industry. And so, at a June 1963 meeting of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the nation’s canners, distributors, and retailers organized the Tuna Emergency Committee with a $10 million advertising campaign. The committee sent retailers “tuna telegram” advertisements and encouraged them to promote tuna in special sales by cutting wholesale prices. The industry also worked with the federal government—the US Departments of Agriculture and the Interior endorsed tuna as a healthy food on TV, on the radio, and in their publications. Related industries, like celery, mayonnaise, and mushroom soup, whose success was intimately tied to the consumption of tuna fish in sandwiches and casseroles, widely advertised the indispensability of tuna to the American diet.[9] The canning industry, now part of a much larger consolidated food industry, was more media-savvy and had greater resources at its disposal than in 1920. Canned food was much more deeply rooted in the American diet, and so the industry could simply bolster its existing strength.

Anna Zeide is Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Oklahoma State University, where her research, teaching, and community activism focus on food and food systems.

[1]    See, for example, the collection, NCA Research Laboratories, 50 Years of Research, 1913-1963 (Washington, DC: NCA, 1963), GMA Library.

[2]    NCA Information Division, “Ask the National Canners Association,” press release, May 21, 1963, 3, GMA Library.

[3]    NCA Information Division, “Fifty Years of Winning Public Confidence,” press release, May 21, 1963, I, GMA Library.

[4]    Ralph W. Johnston, John Feldman, and Rosemary Sullivan, “Botulism from Canned Tuna Fish,” Public Health Reports 78, no. 7 (July 1963): 561–564. See chapter 3 for an analysis of the botulism outbreak in ripe olives in 1919-1920.

[5]    “Marketing & Selling: The Tuna Scare,” Time, April 26, 1963; “Mystery of the Tainted Tuna,” Life, April 26, 1963; Gordon A. Eadie et al., “Type E Botulism: Report of an Outbreak in Michigan,” Journal of the American Medical Association 187, no. 7 (February 15, 1964): 496–499.

[6]    Because there were cases of botulism in other kinds of fish also in 1963, the outbreaks led to increased investigations in the growth of the bacteria in fishery products, among those outside the canning industry. An international conference on botulism was held in Moscow in 1966. M. Ingram and T. A. Roberts, eds., Botulism 1966: Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium on Food Microbiology, Moscow, July 1966, International Association of Microbiological Societies (London: Chapman & Hall, 1967); E. Emil Marcel Mrak, George Franklin Stewart, and C. O. Chichester, Advances in Food Research (Academic Press, 1976), 137.

[7]    “Look Who’s Feeding the Food Editors,” Changing Times: The Kiplinger Magazine, July 1981; Levenstein, Paradox of Plenty, 18–19.

[8]    All quotations in this paragraph from Dennis H. Murphy, “Nobody Cares What a Canner Thinks,” Canner/Packer 132, no. 5 (May 1963): 58.

[9]    National Association of Retail Grocers of the United States, “Canned Tuna Is Making Real Progress,” NARGUS Bulletin 50 (1963): 28; “Marketing & Selling: Tuna Back in Favor,” Time, November 29, 1963.

Why the Food Movement Should Focus on Trade Organizations

This guest post is published around the American Society for Environmental History conference in Riverside, occurring March 14-18, 2018. #ASEH2018

by Anna Zeide, author of Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry

In the last six months, as reported by Politico and NPR, many major food companies—such as Campbell Soup, Mars, Tyson, Hershey’s, Cargill—have bowed out of the ranks of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, signaling a huge shift in how the food industry does business. The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is the sort of body that is way more important on the production side than most consumers are aware of. You may not have heard of it, but it has heard of you. That is, the GMA works endlessly behind the scenes to influence consumer choices and to get all of us to buy more processed food. Much of the power of the food industry comes from its ability to band together to influence legislation, resist regulation, and set agendas that benefit a broad range of companies. For the past decade, and, in a different form, for more than a century, it has been the GMA that has been that consolidated voice of power.

The GMA was born in 2007, when the similarly-named Grocery Manufacturers of America joined with the Food Products Association to create an unprecedented force in the world of food. Before that, though, both groups had existed as independent organizations for a full century beforehand. Both trace their origins to those heady days after the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, when industrial manufacturers recognized a need for more formal organization in the face of federal intervention in food production. The Grocery Manufacturers of America formed in 1908 under that same name, which they carried proudly until the 2007 merger. The Food Products Association, however, began under a different time, back in 1907: the National Canners Association. As I write in my new book, Canned: The Rise and Fall of Consumer Confidence in the American Food Industry, it is with this body of organized canners where the broader story of industrial food really begins.

From its inception, the National Canners Association (NCA) was a pioneer in many of the foundational elements of the modern food industry. The NCA formed among the earliest scientific research laboratories in the food industry in 1913, investigating agricultural production, bacterial contamination, and food safety outbreaks. In so doing, they helped seal the marriage between science and food industry. Later, in 1927, they formally established the NCA Publicity Bureau, which devoted itself to marketing and advertising canned products to a sometimes-reluctant consuming public. The Publicity Bureau commissioned pro-canning works from celebrity chefs, lobbied newspapers to retract stories that blamed canned foods for cases of food poisoning, and published free promotional cookbooks to encourage housewives to embrace canned foods. Beginning as early as the 1930s, the NCA began to get more directly involved in using its leverage to resist government regulation, and to lobby the federal government for more industry-friendly policies. These strategies intensified in the 1970s, culminating in a name change to the National Food Processors Association in 1978 (and later to the Food Products Association in 2005).

By the time this body became the Grocery Manufacturers Association in 2007, it was a behemoth, with more than 300 member-companies, representing nearly all the major brand names in America.

Throughout all of it, though, even as the NCA grew in reach and strength, it always remained particular attuned to and concerned about one particular group: its consumers. The desire to win over consumers has driven this large trade organization from the very beginning.

The defection of some of GMA’s largest members in recent months, then, should not be dismissed as insider politics without larger ramifications for consumers or for the food movement. No, the weakening of this group that has been the foundation of the food industry for over a century means that there is significant space for consumers to voice their concerns even more forcefully. Throughout its history, it has been in moments of weakness that the food industry has been most willing to change its ways in response to consumer concern.

In this moment we must recognize and take advantage of these shifting sands of the industry’s fortune to make our calls for healthier food and a more transparent food system heard.

Anna Zeide is Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Oklahoma State University, where her research, teaching, and community activism focus on food and food systems.

Untold Histories of San Francisco’s Restaurant Landscape 

The latest issue of California History, guest edited by Leonard Schmieding (Georgetown University) and Shana Klein (Georgetown University), explores the surprisingly untold histories of San Francisco’s restaurant landscape in the twentieth century. The following is an excerpt from the guest editors’ introduction, which is freely available at ch.ucpress.edu, along with the rest of the issue, until February 21.

“This is how watermelons grow in California.” Cover of California History Vol. 94, No. 4.

Since the Gold Rush, in 1849, San Francisco has always been known as a food city. In the beginning, San Franciscans imported canned goods from all over the globe in order to feed the population of gold miners, and soon after, local agriculture demonstrated that farmers could grow anything—bigger and better, as they were proud to brag, than anywhere else in the United States. With the completion of the transcontinental railway system, San Francisco could export its Northern Californian abundance to the rest of the country and established its great reputation as a culinary paradise. While San Francisco foodways reached the Midwest, the South, and the East Coast, its immigrant populations changed these foodways. For example, Italians, who controlled the city’s farmers markets and dominated the local agriculture during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, exposed San Franciscans to a great variety of produce. Chinese played an important role in distributing the produce by buying large quantities at the markets and then carrying them up the steep hills of the city to sell them to residents who did not go down to the markets. Furthermore, immigrant chefs in hotels and restaurants started using seasonal produce for their dishes and coined the term San Francisco cuisine—with Austrian immigrant Victor Hirtzler, chef at the St. Francis Hotel, becoming most famous for his cookbook of California cuisine. A number of dishes like Crab Louie, Cioppino, and also various versions of Pacific abalone were thus made into San Francisco signature dishes.

One major component of San Francisco’s culinary signature could be found in the city’s bohemian culture, which in turn consisted of the desire to eat both cosmopolitan and affordable meals. In their quest for exotic and filling meals, bohemians like Clarence Edwords scoured the local landscape of restaurants and found them in French, Japanese, Chinese, German, Italian, and other ethnic eateries. In view of San Francisco’s reputation as a food city, as a home for bohemians, and as a cosmopolitan metropolis on the Pacific coast, the lack of food historical studies of the city’s restaurant landscape is surprising. This special issue therefore intends to shed more light on San Francisco’s German, Chinese, and Indian restaurants in the course of the twentieth century.

Inside the issue

San Francisco Cuisines: Global Flows in the Food City of the West
Leonard Schmieding, Shana Klein

Johnny Kan: The Untold Story of Chinatown’s Greatest Culinary Ambassador
April Chan

Chinese and Indian Restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area since the 1960s
Laresh Jayasanker

German Restaurants in San Francisco in the Wake of World War I
Leonard Schmieding

Public History: Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA 
Stephanie Narrow

Book Review: Making Black Los Angeles: Class, Gender, and Community by Marne L. Campbell
Michael Slaughter

Book Review: Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual, and Political Freedom by Mireya Loza
Frank Barajas

CALL FOR PAPERS: California History, the premier journal of historical writing on California and the West, invites papers for review and possible publication. Click here for more information about submitting your article.

Herstory: Cookbooks by Women Authors

This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the largest single day protest in US history—the Women’s March—when on January 21, 2017, 4.2 million people marched across the US in more than 600 US cities, and from Antarctica to Zimbabwe, at least 261 more sister marches cropped up worldwide. To celebrate this pivotal protest, UC Press is highlighting titles across subjects as part of our Herstory series, with today’s focus on cookbooks by women authors. While just a preview of our publishing “herstory,” these titles showcase how women have shaped the culinary sphere all around the world.

Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years That Changed Our Culinary Consciousness
By Joyce Goldstein with Dore Brown

In this authoritative and immensely readable insider’s account, celebrated cookbook author and former chef Joyce Goldstein traces the development of California cuisine from its formative years in the 1970s to 2000, when farm-to-table, foraging, and fusion cooking had become part of the national vocabulary. Interviews with almost two hundred chefs, purveyors, artisans, winemakers, and food writers bring to life an approach to cooking grounded in passion, bold innovation, and a dedication to “flavor first.”


The New Mediterranean Jewish Table: Old World Recipes for the Modern Home
By Joyce Goldstein

For thousands of years, the people of the Jewish Diaspora have carried their culinary traditions and kosher laws throughout the world. In the United States, this has resulted primarily in an Ashkenazi table of matzo ball soup and knishes, brisket and gefilte fish. But Joyce Goldstein is now expanding that menu with this comprehensive collection of over four hundred recipes from the kitchens of three Mediterranean Jewish cultures: the Sephardic, the Maghrebi, and the Mizrahi.


The Hakka Cookbook: Chinese Soul Food from around the World
By Linda Lau Anusasananan

Veteran food writer Linda Lau Anusasananan opens the world of Hakka cooking to Western audiences in this fascinating chronicle that traces the rustic cuisine to its roots in a history of multiple migrations. Beginning in her grandmother’s kitchen in California, Anusasananan travels to her family’s home in China, and from there fans out to embrace Hakka cooking across the globe—including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Peru, and beyond.


La Cocina Mexicana: Many Cultures, One Cuisine
By Marilyn Tausend

After thirty years of leading culinary tours throughout Mexico, Marilyn Tausend teams up with Mexican chef and regional cooking authority Ricardo Muñoz Zurita to describe how the cultures of many profoundly different peoples combined to produce the unmistakable flavors of Mexican food. Weaving engrossing personal narrative with a broad selection of recipes, the authors show how the culinary heritage of indigenous groups, Europeans, and Africans coalesced into one of the world’s most celebrated cuisines.


The Georgian Feast: The Vibrant Culture and Savory Food of the Republic of Georgia
By Darra Goldstein

Nestled in the Caucasus mountain range between the Black and Caspian seas, the Republic of Georgia is as beautiful as it is bountiful. The unique geography of the land, which includes both alpine and subtropical zones, has created an enviable culinary tradition. In The Georgian Feast, Darra Goldstein explores the rich and robust culture of Georgia and offers a variety of tempting recipes.



Popes, Peasants, and Shepherds: Recipes and Lore from Rome to Lazio
By Oretta Zanini De Vita

The food of Rome and its region, Lazio, is redolent of herbs, olive oil, ricotta, lamb, and pork. It is the food of ordinary, frugal people, yet it is a very modern cuisine in that it gives pride of place to the essential flavors of its ingredients. In this only English-language book to encompass the entire region, the award-winning author of Encyclopedia of Pasta, Oretta Zanini De Vita, offers a substantial and complex social history of Rome and Lazio through the story of its food.



Breaking Bread: Recipes from Immigrant Kitchens
By Lynne C. Anderson

Through stories of hand-rolled pasta and homemade chutney, local markets and backyard gardens, and wild mushrooms and foraged grape leaves—this book recounts in loving detail the memories, recipes, and culinary traditions of people who have come to the United States from around the world. Chef and teacher Lynne Anderson has gone into immigrant kitchens and discovered the power of food to recall a lost world for those who have left much behind.



M. F. K. Fisher among Pots and Pans: Celebrating Her Kitchens
By Joan Reardon

From her very first book, Serve It Forth, M.F.K. Fisher wrote about her ideal kitchen. In her subsequent publications, she revisited the many kitchens she had known and the foods she savored in them to express her ideas about the art of eating. M.F.K. Fisher among the Pots and Pansinterspersed with recipes and richly illustrated with original watercolors, is a retrospective of Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher’s life as it unfolded in those homey settings—from Fisher’s childhood in Whittier, California, to the kitchens of Dijon, where she developed her taste for French foods and wines; from the idyllic kitchen at Le Paquis to the isolation of her home in Hemet, California; and finally to her last days in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.

#7CheapThings: Cheap Lives

excerpted from A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore

Welcome to the seventh post in our #7CheapThings blog series! Raj Patel & Jason W. Moore’s A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things focuses on seven areas that are the foundation of modern commerce: nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives. How has the cheapening of these things made the world safe for capitalism? Follow along to find out.

#7CheapThings care book coverIn the case of every cheap thing so far, we’ve seen organized acts of resistance. Women, wageworkers, Indigenous People, and even those members of the ruling class on whose fortunes the sun has set—all have fought, more or less successfully, against the requirement of their subservience. In response, capitalists developed new strategies to forge new frontiers and to deepen existing ones. This cat-and-mouse game of resistance, strategy, and counterstrategy has been the history of capitalism’s ecology. Governments, merchants, and financiers scaled new heights of creativity and destruction in the search for profit. But capitalism’s ecology has also expanded and consolidated itself through prodigious experimentation in the arts and science of social order. Among the more durable and flexible technologies of social control is one that has become so familiar that it’s easy to forget its novelty and peculiarity: the nation-state.

The argument of this chapter is that capitalism’s ecology has shaped the modern nation-state and vice versa, through the colonial frontier, through the interactions between early capitalists and “savages,” and through the technologies of communication that capitalism fostered at its inception. The ordering and reordering of Society through cheap things has always proceeded by both force and suasion, coercion and consent. To maintain hegemony is, as Antonio Gramsci observed, to recruit and maintain forces from across society in a bloc that is able to continually outmaneuver its rivals. In the pursuit of order and control, the idea of “the nation” became affixed to the state in ways that few could predict and which continue to shape the planet.

Keeping things cheap is expensive. The forces of law and order, domestic and international, are a costly part of the management of capitalism’s ecology. We’ve titled this chapter “Cheap Lives” and not “Expensive State” because we want to focus not on the institutions of government but on their processes and consequences. Technically, lives aren’t a cheap thing in the way that the others are—but it would have made for an infelicitous title to admit this earlier. Understand how capitalism has made “cheap lives” a strategy of cheap nature, and you understand not only the forces required to keep money, work, care, food, and energy cheap but also how the most sophisticated and subtle modern institution, the nation-state, still draws on early modern roots and natural science to manage modern life. More important still, as states confront the limits of their ability both to manage the lives in their charge and to provide conducive environments for liberal capitalism, we’re reaching the end of an era of cheap lives. We make this argument not with relish for the successor to the liberal nation-state but out of concern for what may follow. We’re astute enough students of history to know that what comes next might be far worse.

Raj Patel care author photoRaj Patel is an award-winning writer, activist and academic. He is a Research Professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin and a Senior Research Associate at the Unit for the Humanities at Rhodes University. He is the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing.

Jason W. Moore author photo careJason W. Moore teaches world history and world-ecology at Binghamton University, and is coordinator of the World-Ecology Research Network. He is the author of several books, including Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital, and numerous award-winning essays in environmental history, political economy, and social theory.

The Culinary Sphere as a Political Arena

by Nir Avieli, author of Food and Power: A Culinary Ethnography of Israel

This guest post is published in conjunction with the American Anthropological Association conference in Washington D.C.. Check back regularly for new posts through the end of the conference on December 3rd.

In a recent talk on my book Food and Power: A Culinary Ethnography of Israel during a visit to the US, I was asked whether my findings were not in contradiction with Jewish morality, and whether my text would not make for ammunition in the hands of anti-Semitic critics of Israel. For example, wasn’t my definition of the Israeli cuisine characterized by large, cheap portions of low quality resonating with the classic anti-Semitic perceptions of “the Jew” as stingy and greedy? And wasn’t my argument that the accusations by Israelis of Thai migrant workers for systematically hunting and eating Israeli pet dogs implying that Israelis were racists?

Food and Power is indeed a political project. It deals with the misuse and abuse of power in modern-day Israel, and exposes antidemocratic, xenophobic, and racist tendencies that taint the political and public arenas. In this sense, it is a stern critique of contemporary Israeli society. It is not, however, a post-Zionist or anti-Israeli project. Rather, it is a critical analysis of an extremely important cultural realm: The Israeli culinary sphere, which has not been approached thus far as a political sphere, enmeshed in power relations.

Do my findings contradict Jewish morality? While I could have argued that academics were not an authority when it comes to moral standards, I responded that there is no monolithic or agreed upon Jewish morality but, rather, multiple interpretations of what Jewish morality was, some of which can only be described as contradictory. And oddly enough, this is exactly what my findings indicate; that different people in different contexts understand and enact Jewish morality in very different ways: Eating as much as you can no matter the quality may be understood as a manifestation of greed, but also as an expression of vulnerability and fear. Accusing the Thais of eating Israeli dogs may be pure racism, but my findings suggest that this myth has emerged as a partial solution for the shame many Israelis feel regarding the employment of foreign workers in a country that cherished “Jewish labor”.

So while Food and Power approaches some of the negative features of Israeli society, including gluttony, greed, ethnocentrism, racism, patriarchal machismo, and other forms of power abuse, I have dedicated this book to my children,  hoping that the prevailing ethno-messianic and neo-liberal ideologies which have been increasingly dominant since the mid 1990’s will eventually collapse due to their essential immorality, internal contradictions, and lack of practical solutions for the problems and difficulties Israel faces.

Nir Avieli is a Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Ben Gurion University, Israel.

Making The “Meat and Two Veg” for Sunday Dinner and Why it Matters

by Amy B. Trubek, author of Making Modern Meals: How Americans Cook Today

This guest post is published in conjunction with the American Anthropological Association conference in Washington D.C.. Check back regularly for new posts through the end of the conference on December 3rd.

Making Modern Meals cooking book coverThe discipline of anthropology has always paid close attention to everyday life, relying on ethnography as the method par excellence. Observations of how we live work like a microscope of the social. Anthropologists take notes on the small and telling details because each one means something, revealing our values, our perceptions, our social selves. Everyday life certainly matters. In this telling, food, for anthropologists, should be a matter par excellence: everybody eats. And to a certain extent this is true. Anthropology, of all the social science disciplines, probably contains the broadest and deepest set of fine grained studies of the complex and contradictory relationship humans have with food. Over the past ten years, a number of ethnographies have looked at the significance of special ritual meals, the meanings of an artisan product, food ways as means for social distinction and social power, the global journeys of ingredients, and more, all resulting in fascinating analyses.

But we have yet to give food its due, especially given the commitment of anthropologists to everyday life and everyday experience. What about all the processes involved in answering that mundane and necessary question addressed fifty years ago by Mary Douglas: What should we have for dinner? As David Sutton, a committed ethnographer of cooking points out, even in Douglas’s famous consideration of the British meal, in this brilliant analysis of the structure of her meal why was “no concern expressed about how the ingredients might be assembled, processed and cooked to create these dishes (“Cooking in Theory” in Anthropological Theory, 2017)?” It is tempting to focus on the finished product, the object of consumption as what matters most. But there is more to put under the microscope. There is eating Sunday dinner but there is also making it. What items must she purchase in order to create the two veg on the side? Where did she get her ingredients? How did she learn how to make that roast? Over the course of my research on everyday cooking in the United States, I realized that so much tacit knowledge stays just below the surface, buried, rarely the focus of attention. What is known but not understood is the next journey anthropologists of food should take. The tiny, the trivial, the barely conscious are in fact grand, powerful and significant. As I witnessed, while dinner gets made – and planned, and eaten, and cleaned up – so to do our social lives and social selves.

Amy Trubek author cooking Making Modern MealsAmy B. Trubek is Associate Professor of Nutrition and Food Science at the University of Vermont. She is the author of Haute Cuisine: How the French Invented the Culinary Profession and The Taste of Place: A Cultural Journey into Terroir.

#7CheapThings: Cheap Energy

excerpted from A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore

Welcome to the sixth post in our #7CheapThings blog series! Raj Patel & Jason W. Moore’s A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things focuses on seven areas that are the foundation of modern commerce: nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives. How has the cheapening of these things made the world safe for capitalism? Follow along to find out.

#7CheapThings care book coverCapitalism’s ecology has a distinctive pyrogeography, one that is part of the fossil record. Indigenous People had thoroughly modified New World landscapes through fire. In eastern North America, they coproduced the “mosaic quality” of forest, savannah, and meadow that Europeans took for pristine nature. Between Columbus’s arrival and around 1650, disease and colonial violence reduced Indigenous populations in the Americas by 95 percent. With fewer humans burning and cutting them down, forests recovered so vigorously that the New World became a planetary carbon sink. Forest growth cooled the planet so much that the Indigenous holocaust contributed to the Little Ice Age’s severity. By the middle of the seventeenth century, some of the early modern era’s worst winters were being recorded across Eurasia and the Americas. Not coincidentally, it was an era of bitter war and political unrest, from Beijing to Paris. To reprise an idea from the introduction, it would be wrong to characterize this episode of genocide and reforestation as anthropogenic. The colonial exterminations of Indigenous Peoples were the work not of all humans, but of conquerors and capitalists. Capitalogenic would be more appropriate. And if we are tempted to conflate capitalism with the Industrial Revolution, these transformations ought to serve notice that early capitalism’s destruction was so profound that it changed planetary climate four centuries ago.

For many commoners in Europe and beyond, forests and woodlands were—and remain—as essential to survival as food. The destruction of the commons involved more than the creation of hunger. It also removed common rights to gather wood, imposing a poverty of fuel and construction material. In feudal Europe, demographic and settlement expansion in the eleventh and twelfth centuries led to conflict not just over farmland but also over access to forests, which had become lucrative income sources for nobles and kings. When England’s King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, it’s significant that he was also compelled to sign a second document at the same time: the Charter of the Forest. Where the Magna Carta turns on legal and political rights, the Charter of the Forest was about “economic survival”: securing for peasants something called estovers, a broad category of subsistence wood products. The Forest Charter was an assurance of English commoners’ access to fuel, food, and building materials.

In Germany, as Peter Linebaugh notes, “the first great proletarian revolt of modern history, the Peasants’ Revolt of Germany in 1525, demanded the restoration of customary forest rights.” These included rights to use “ ‘windfall wood, rootfall trees, and inbowes,’ where these latter were defined ‘also only to so much thereof as the bees do light on, and the honey that shall be found in the tree, but not to cut any main bough or tree itself by color thereof.’ ” People have been fighting for centuries over the fuel and construction material that wood can become. It’s worth mentioning all this because it’s too often forgotten that capitalism’s energy revolution began not with coal but with wood—and with the privatization that forest enclosure implies.

This is not to privilege a European and North American history of energy over the histories of deforestation in, say, China. Notwithstanding the moderating effects of the forest police, China’s great deforestation one thousand years ago had consequences that persist today: at ten cubic meters (353 cubic feet), the country’s per capita forest reserves are an eighth of the world average. But China’s world-ecology wasn’t committed to global conquest. Europe’s was.

The reason to look at energy in Europe lies in the different use of fuel—a kind of cheap nature—as an intrinsic part of capitalism’s ecology. Cheap energy is a way of amplifying—and in some cases substituting for—cheap work and care. If cheap food is capitalism’s major way of reducing the wage bill, cheap energy is the crucial lever to advance labor productivity. The two can function as a logical sequence, even if the actual history is more complex. First, peasants must be ejected from the commons. These new workers must find wage work in some form. Second, the workshops and factories that employ these workers have to compete with one another. And while there’s a long history of bosses’ overworking their employees, the competitive struggle between capitalists is ultimately decided by labor productivity. We normally think of labor productivity—that is, the production of more commodities per average hour of work—as something determined by machines. But capitalist machines function because they draw on the work of extrahuman natures, and these have to be cheap, because the demand is limitless. For this reason, the enclosure of terrestrial commons coincided with the enclosure of the subterranean world. At the very moment when peasant life was turned upside down in sixteenth-century England, the country’s great coal mines were pumping out coal by the thousands of tons. Here a new layer of cheapness emerges in our picture of the world: capitalism’s global factory requires not just a global farm and a global family, but a global mine as well.

In this chapter we explore how energy became one of capitalism’s cheap things through energy revolutions in Europe and the Americas, and what cheap energy means for the twenty-first century’s global ecology. Energy qualifies as a “thing” insofar as it is transformed from part of the web of life into a commodity to be bought and sold. Fossilized life becomes stuff for a fire and an engine’s fuel tank only through capitalism’s ecology. But capitalism’s energy system does several tasks at once. It makes both energy and inputs cheaper: cheap coal makes cheap steel; cheap peat makes for cheap(er) bricks. This reduces the costs of doing business and enhances profitability. Cheap energy also helps keep labor costs down, by controlling one of the largest costs (after food) in a family budget. While enclosure made energy more expensive for most peasants by removing their access to the commons—where, in many parts of the world, collecting resources had fallen to women—it also pulled workers into the cash economy, where they had to pay for their building materials and fuel. Controlling energy costs was another way to manage and sustain cheap work.

Raj Patel care author photoRaj Patel is an award-winning writer, activist and academic. He is a Research Professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin and a Senior Research Associate at the Unit for the Humanities at Rhodes University. He is the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing.

Jason W. Moore author photo careJason W. Moore teaches world history and world-ecology at Binghamton University, and is coordinator of the World-Ecology Research Network. He is the author of several books, including Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital, and numerous award-winning essays in environmental history, political economy, and social theory.

#7CheapThings: Cheap Meat, Cheap Labor, Cheap Food

excerpted from A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things: A Guide to Capitalism, Nature, and the Future of the Planet by Raj Patel and Jason W. Moore

Welcome to the fifth post in our #7CheapThings blog series! Raj Patel & Jason W. Moore’s A History of the World in Seven Cheap Things focuses on seven areas that are the foundation of modern commerce: nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives. How has the cheapening of these things made the world safe for capitalism? Follow along to find out.

#7CheapThings care book coverTo those with a romantic view of where their food comes from, meat appears to be a raw ingredient rather than a processed one. Yet the industrial labor techniques of simplification, compartmentalization, and specialization first developed in sugar production have found their way into meat production too. Feed and oilseed crops, made possible in the Global South partly by the spread of the Green Revolution, form part of what Weis terms “the industrial grain-oilseed-livestock complex.” The creation of markets for uniform grain and meat commodities—such as the Chicago Board of Trade—made it possible for these commodities to become not only cheap food but the backing for financial instruments. These instruments in turn require the uniformity, homogenization, and industrialization of the crops they transform. Such industry demands the invention of new veterinary practices—from intensive breeding to hormonal supplementation to antibiotic use to concentrated animal feeding operations—which have had globally transformative effects on the quality of food, soil, water, and air. Raw meat in the supermarket is, in other words, cooked up by a sophisticated and intensive arm of capitalism’s ecology.

One result is a meat-production system that can turn a fertile egg and a nine-pound (four-kilogram) bag of feed into a five pound (two-kilogram) chicken in five weeks. Turkey production times almost halved between 1970 and 2000, down to twenty weeks from egg to thirty-five-pound (sixteen-kilogram) bird. Other animals have seen similar advances from a combination of breeding, concentrated feeding operations, and global supply chains. Half of the world’s pork is eaten in China, and its feed import sources are a planetary affair. As are the consequences: 14.5 percent of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are from livestock production. One pound (about half a kilogram) of beef requires 1,799 gallons (6,810 liters) of water and seven pounds (three kilograms) of feed to produce.

The environmental consequences of meat production are, of course, external to the profit calculus of the industrial food system. This is one of the reasons why meat is so cheap. Cheap labor is another. The danger is to see “factory farming” as an environmental question and “factory production” as a social question. Given the centrality of cheap labor power in the US neoliberal meat-packing sector, we might also point out the centrality of Latino immigrants. The delivery of this cheap work was made possible by class restructuring on two fronts. One, in the United States, was a strong movement in the 1980s by newly aggressive meat-packing firms—such as Hormel—to destroy union power and replace unionized workers with low-wage immigrant labor. The other was the destabilization of Mexico’s agrarian order after 1994 by NAFTA, which resulted in flows of cheap immigrant labor, unemployed workers displaced by capitalism’s ecology from one side of the US border to the other.

Despite the considerable environmental and governmental subsidies afforded the meat industry, many people are unable to afford its products. For them the private sector and the international development community have offered an alternative: improved nutrition of industrially produced plant-based food. This is more than a little ironic: industrialization and the Green Revolution bred nutrition out of many of the staples in the food system. Those nutrients were casualties of the drive to maximize the yield, shelf life, and consumer acceptability of a standardized commodity. Reintroducing them is a means of increasing the profitability of an ultraprocessed food substance. In a way, the logic of cheap meat production comes full circle, with additives in food designed not to produce profitable animal flesh but to sustain cheap human labor, which, in its turn, will produce more profit further down the line.

Raj Patel care author photoRaj Patel is an award-winning writer, activist and academic. He is a Research Professor in the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, Austin and a Senior Research Associate at the Unit for the Humanities at Rhodes University. He is the author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing.

Jason W. Moore author photo careJason W. Moore teaches world history and world-ecology at Binghamton University, and is coordinator of the World-Ecology Research Network. He is the author of several books, including Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital, and numerous award-winning essays in environmental history, political economy, and social theory.