UC Santa Barbara
This roundtable aims to showcase the essays in the forthcoming issue of Osiris, entitled Food Matters: Critical Histories of Food and the Sciences. The contributions range in topic from early modern dietetics and debates about cannibalism to modern ready-to-eat rations and Ayurvedic recipes; from analyses of hungry model organisms to the dining rituals of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and their patrons. This broad compass reveals that food and drink exist at the poles of knowledge production. The history of knowledge about food, from the early modern reformulation of ancient medical advice to the emergence of nutrition, physiology, and food chemistry since the late-eighteenth century, has always raised debates about the shifting definition and boundaries of expertise: between traditional recipes and experimental protocols; between domestic craft skill and laboratory procedure; between the management and redistribution of resources for the social body on the one hand, and the subjective experiences of individual bodies on the other. Sciences of food, the volume shows, have been informed by, and in their turn helped to shape, an array of institutions, labor regimes, cultural practices, and ethical commitments, underpinning such disparate projects as purifying individual bodies, reforming the poor, and saving the environment. Collectively, the essays offer a set of explicit reflections upon the methodological demands and potential of food as a subject for historians of science, technology, and medicine, and vice versa, on the way that the history of food can be investigated using the tools, approaches, and preoccupations of historians of science, technology, and medicine.
UC Santa Barbara