Thursday, December 10, 2009

Today at 4pm! Reverse-Engineering Terroir: Locating the Value of American Artisanal Cheese

From the Center for the Humanities...

Heather Paxson
Associate Professor of Anthropology, MIT

Reverse-Engineering Terroir: Locating the Value of American Artisan Cheese

December 10, 2009 @ 4:00 pm
University Club Building, Room 313
This event is one of the WIH Biopolitics Symposia events.

Initially applied to wine, the French notion of terroir, loosely translated as the taste of place, has long been a value-adding label bestowing distinction. Recently, American artisan cheesemakers have been experimenting with "translating terroir" to reveal the range of values — agrarian, environmental, social, gastronomic — that they believe constitute their cheese and distinguish artisan from commodity production. Some domestic cheesemakers are self-consciously working to reverse-engineer terroir: developing cheeses and natural-cultural landscapes that are well suited to one another. More than approaching terroir as a descriptive label to characterize how distinctive tastes express valued characteristics of place, these rural entrepreneurs approach terroir prescriptively, as a model for practice that might create place through environmental stewardship and rural economic revitalization. U.S. terroir talk reveals attempts to reconcile the economic and socio-moral values that producers invest in artisan cheese.

Photo: Anne Topham at the Dane County Farmers' Market

Dr. Paxon is a cultural anthropologist at MIT, where she is Class of '57 Career Development Associate Professor. She received her PhD from Stanford University and her BA from Haverford College. She is interested in how people craft a sense of themselves as moral beings in everyday, bodily practices including sex, reproduction, and eating.


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