In recent years, raw milk has emerged as one of the most contentious food commodities, considered a serious health risk by public health officials and a source of healing and nourishment by raw milk proponents. The purpose of this article is to explore the ways in which consumers construct and experience trust in food that is often procured in informal markets. Because the image of an overreaching, exploitative government features prominently in popular narratives surrounding raw milk consumption, this article is explicitly concerned with the role of the state in public food debates. Drawing on two complementary empirical cases of raw milk consumption in the United States and postsocialist Lithuania, I argue that there are two competing projects that underlie the struggles surrounding raw milk provisioning in both sites: the politics of recognition and the politics of sovereignty. As similarly argued by Charles Taylor, the politics of recognition emphasizes the efforts of raw milk consumers to be accepted, supported, and recognized by the larger polity, including its public health institutions, legislative bodies, and welfare state. On the other hand, raw milk proponents call for sovereignty, postulating that food choices and intake should lie outside of state prerogatives. More broadly, this study reveals how trust in a food product is tied to the ongoing legitimacy crisis of the modern state, and in particular how a renewed value of locavorism becomes anchored in a fundamental distrust of the postindustrial, postwelfare state and its institutions.
Raw Milk, Raw Power: States of (Mis)Trust
Diana Mincyte is Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Science at the New York City College of Technology of the City University of New York (CUNY). Her work examines environmental and justice dimensions of agro-food systems. In her research, she studies the implementation of sustainable food politics in Eastern Europe and the United States to track the emergence of new economic subjectivities and state control over political, microbial, and ecological domains in postindustrial societies. Her publications include articles in Environment and Planning D,Sociologia Ruralis, Agriculture and Human Values, and Slavic Review, among others; several guest-edited special issues; and a number of book chapters.
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Diana Mincyte; Raw Milk, Raw Power: States of (Mis)Trust. Gastronomica 1 November 2014; 14 (4): 44–51. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2014.14.4.44
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