Heather Anne Paxson "Safe Passage or Risky Transit? Moving Perishable Foods across the U.S. Border"

Departmental Seminar Series features Heather Anne Paxson, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Anthropology, MIT Anthropology Faculty, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.

The seminar is followed by informal gathering, at which refreshments are served. All are welcome!

Copyright: MIT Anthropology


Food retailers, restaurateurs and transnational families rely on continual global circulation of foodstuffs whose border crossings are highly regulated. Not everything gets in. This paper provides an overview of how food safety is (unevenly) enacted at U.S. ports of entry. Where U.S. federal regulators and enforcement agents perceive in certain foods danger of adulteration or contamination, importers and producers may experience threat to customary practices of foodmaking, provisioning and commerce. Synecdochic, part-for-whole, reasoning both motivates food journeys and helps determine the fate of perishable foods as they attempt to cross semi-permeable thresholds that delineate and connect nation-states, and that make possible while restricting the flow of international trade.

Research profile

Heather Anne Paxson is a cultural anthropologist 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.

Professor Paxson is the author of two ethnographic monographs:

Making Modern Mothers: Ethics and Family Planning in Urban Greece (University of California Press, 2004). In this anthropological study of reproductive politics and ethics in Athens, Paxson tracks the effects of increasing consumerism and imported biomedical family planning methods, showing how women's "nature" is transforming to meet the crosscutting claims of the contemporary world. —"An arresting book…. It is a powerful commentary on the cultural specificities of morality in the modern world.". Review by Michael Herzfeld.

The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America (University of California Press, 2013), 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. Selected publications

Published Dec. 18, 2017 3:50 PM - Last modified May 3, 2018 11:53 AM