Cultural Studies

This section provides access to up-to-date information regarding cheese and cheese safety, specifically research conducted by anthropologist and other social scientists. 

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Attitudes Differ on the "Quality" of Raw-Milk Cheese

Paxson's article provides a theoretical frame for understanding current debates over the gustatory value and health and safety of raw-milk cheese in the United States. Through the lens of raw- milk cheese, Paxson explores the two distinct and polarized paradigms that exist regarding our relationship with bacteria: pasterurians who fear bacteria and encourage their eradication and post-pasteruizations who support collaboration with the ambient microbes throughout the natural environment.  

Cultural Anthropology 2008 [Heather Paxson]

Exploring the Taxonomy of Cheese

Paxson's thought exercise sheds revealing light on the potential inconsistencies and inadequacies of contemporary cheese classification systems. A matter of regulation, personal health, and collective culture, what a cheese means to one person may differ entirely from what it means to someone else.  

Cultural Anthropology Online 2013 [Heather Paxson]

Food Fears and Raw-Milk Cheese

West examines the debate over the safety of raw-milk cheese. The author shows that decisions about "acceptable risk" involve perceptions, opinions, and values, as well as science. West shows that raw milk cheese enthusiasts support their case to policy makers and pro-pasteurians not only along value lines but also in scientific terms. The author suggests that should consumer interest in raw-milk products wane, raw-milk cheese will become even more vulnerable to food fears. 

Appetite 2008 [Harry West]

Thinking Like a Cheese

West uses the ethnographic examples of two cheesemakers to explore the ways in which traditional cheesemaking knowledge is produced, reproduced, and communicated. He urges producers to "think like a mountain," in the words of Aldo Leopold, and maintain a holistic rather than reductionist perspective.   

Understanding Cultural Transmission in Anthropology 2013 [Harry West]