Danille Christensen - The Art and Science of Preserving: Food, the Humanities, and Knowledge Regimes
Canning today is often used as shorthand for "food preserved in jars" although, historically, vernacular nomenclature separated preserving from plain canning. The former included items that depended on high sugar or high acetic or lactic acid content, while the latter referenced a newer process that aimed to maintain the "natural" taste of a greater range f foods by relying mostly on heat rather than additives. This presentation examines both processes in relation to broader discourses about how knowledge and knowers are made, classified, and ranked.
The conversation around home-bottled fruits and vegetables can tell us much about knowledge regimes, including the segregation of art from science. It is not an accident that we still recognize jellies and pickles as artisanal, while "plain" canning is couched in the language of technology-assisted measurement and scientific prescription.
Dr. Danille Christensen is an Assistant Professor of Public Humanities in Virginia Tech's Department of Religion and Culture. Broadly concerned with rhetorics of vernacular performance, she combines archival and ethnographic research with close analysis of texts, objects, and technologies, focusing on the ways social hierarchies are maintained and refigured through discursive and material means. Her current book project - a study of how and why home canning has been promoted in the United States over the last century or so - concentrates on how repeated canning enthusiasms reflect varied social and technological contexts even as they bolster fairly stable notions about who possesses legitimate, authoritative knowledge.
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