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White bread bio-politics: purity, health, and the triumph of industrial baking

[journal article]

Bobrow-Strain, Aaron

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Abstract This article traces the massive commodification and industrialization of the USA's single most important food: bread. It argues that bakers overcame serious obstacles to capitalist development during this period thanks to the construction of contingent and contested associations between industrial bread and larger discourses of purity, hygiene, and progress circulating through turn-of-the-century America. It explores two arenas in which this articulation operated: the re-making of baking as a techno-science of expert control and the visual spectacle of streamlined, white loaves. This story, in turn, offers larger lessons about the contradictory politics of food safety in our own time. Building on Michel Foucault's work on bio-politics, it shows how notions of food safety dependent on discourses of purity, contagion, hygiene, and vitality inevitably constitute lines of exclusion and social hierarchy, even as they are used to mobilize `progressive' social change.
Free Keywords Bio-politics; bread; commodification; food politics; food safety; Foucault; industrialization;
Document language English
Publication Year 2008
Page/Pages p. 19-40
Journal Cultural Geographies, 15 (2008) 1
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)