MIT Professors Discuss Microbiopolitics Through the Lens of American Cheese
On Monday, October 3, two professors of anthropology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Heather Paxson and Stefan Helmreich – delivered a seminar for students of HSE St. Petersburg Master's programme in Applied and Interdisciplinary History. The seminar centered around Professor Paxson’s recent paper ‘The Microbiopolitics of American Cheese: Taste, Safety and Risk in a Post-Industrializing Food Landscape’. A presentation by Professor Paxson focused on how the microbiopolitics of cheese making in the U.S. presupposed and promoted industrial methods and standards and how in recent decades interest in producing and consuming artisanally made, raw-milk cheese has risen dramatically. Following the presentation, Professor Helmreich led a discussion on questions in current anthropology of science that drew on his work on how contemporary scientists—biologists, oceanographers, and audio engineers—are redefining the concepts of life, water, and sound.
Following their seminar, Professor Paxson spoke with the HSE News Service about what drew her toward cheese as a subject for research, her view on how professions will be shaped by developments in biology and IT, and her recommendations for how young people can tailor their studies to best prepare for the future.
— Why cheese? What motivated you to choose this as a subject for your research? How does it fit within the study of anthropology?
— I began noticing more and more American-made, artisanally produced, European-style cheeses for sale in the United States around the year 2000. These cheeses didn’t exist when I was growing up. Where had they come from? My research began with a personal curiosity: who were these new cheesemakers, how did they learn their craft, and what did it mean for them to handcraft cheese using old-fashioned methods and obsolete technologies within a fully industrialized society? My research fell at the intersection of economic anthropology and the anthropology of food, which is a rapidly growing field in the United States.
— In today’s world, how are the boundaries being changed with new technologies and new scientific achievements in biology and IT?
— Social media technologies and international trade, for example, are both blurring and shoring up borders — political, economic and cultural — all the time.
— What are some of the professions that will emerge in the near future following these developments? What would you recommend that young people?
— I recommend all students to take at least some courses in the humanistic social sciences — history, social geography, anthropology, sociology — because these fields give young people conceptual tools with which they can make sense of and, hopefully, in whatever their future professions may be, improve the infrastructures, technologies and social norms that connect and divide today’s societies, economies and political systems. Engineers, managers and research scientists do better work when they have an understanding of how their technologies and infrastructures may be used, re-appropriated and valued by the diversity of people who will encounter them.
— How did your cooperation with HSE develop? What about the lecture and discussion – any impressions?
— I was invited by a member of the HSE faculty, Nikolai Ssorin-Chaikov; Nikolai and I attended graduate school together at Stanford University in the 1990s. I enjoyed the discussion following my lecture very much. It’s exciting that your Master’s students come from all over Europe and well beyond. They will learn as much from each other — just as Nikolai and I did — as they will from their supervised research and tutorials.
— What's next on your research agenda?
— I am just beginning a new research project on moving perishable foods across international borders. How does international trade work on the ground? I am interested in what the temporalities and materialities of food can tell us about the semi-porosity of international borders, and various governmental strategies to regulate them.
Anna Chernyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News service
How the Telephone Conquered the World. Episode Five: From the US Free Market to Conservative Britain
In this series of columns on IQ.HSE, Anton Basov, HSE Faculty of Computer Science editor, discusses how telephones have become an integral part of our everyday life. The fifth episode of the series chronicles the early experiences of the telegraph and telephone in Great Britain, shedding light on the challenges they faced, and explores the adverse impact of excessive government regulation and nationalisation on the evolution of telecommunications.
Petroleum for equine care, wood oil for lighting, sandalwood for Easter celebrations, and lemons and olives for entertaining unexpected guests. Russian monasteries often used these and other eastern goods in the period leading up to and during the reign of Peter the Great. Analysing their account books leads to a revision of the traditional assumptions about the primary consumers of oriental goods in Russia. These consumers, in addition to the royal and aristocratic circles, included monastery estates, as discussed in the paper ‘“Three altyns worth of petroleum…”: Oriental goods in Russia at the second half of the 17th and early 18th century’ by historian Arthur Mustafin of HSE University. Based on his paper, IQ.HSE explores the types of goods that were shipped from the East to Russia in the latter half of the 17th to the early 18th century, including the routes and purposes of these shipments.
How the Telephone Conquered the World. Episode Four: David the Start-up Versus the Corporate Goliath
The history of the invention of telephony reads like a captivating detective novel, but even more intriguing are the events that contributed to the worldwide adoption of this technology. In this series of columns on IQ.HSE, Anton Basov, HSE Faculty of Computer Science editor, discusses how telephones have become an integral part of our everyday life. The fourth episode of the series recounts the story of the fledgling start-up's confrontation with hordes of patent trolls and its subsequent victory in a full-blown corporate war against the largest telecommunications company of the late 19th century.
‘In Search of the Key to the Past’: Students of HSE Art and Design School in Nizhny Novgorod Develop Collection of Souvenirs
The HSE Art and Design School in Nizhny Novgorod, together with the ‘Protected Quarters’ project to revive Nizhny Novgorod’s historical territories, have carried out the ‘Timeless’ creative project, which included a design laboratory and an educational programme. As a result of the creative workshop, students made concepts for souvenir products based on the local identity.
Today, we can make a telephone call to anyone, anywhere in the world—but this was not always the case. In this series of columns on IQ.HSE, Anton Basov, HSE Faculty of Computer Science editor, discusses how telephones have become an integral part of our everyday life. The third episode focuses on the evolution of telephone connections, the first subscribers, and the history of the telephone directory.
‘We Have Always Loved You, Sakhalin’: Research Expedition Studies Sociocultural Anthropology of Miners' Working Life in the USSR
Researchers from the School of Foreign Languages and the Group for Historical Research, together with students of the History programme at the HSE University campus in Perm, have come back from an expedition to Sakhalin Island, where they studied Soviet industrial culture and the working life of miners. The expedition participants shared their impressions of their ‘immersion into the past’ and the extraordinary landscapes of the island with the HSE News Service.
Throughout July, students of the HSE International Summer University are studying Russian History and Behavioural Economics. The courses are taking place in an online format—something that seemed unthinkable for a summer programme before the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent years have shown that online learning is a unique opportunity for students from all over the world to study with leading HSE University professors from the comfort of their own homes.
The first major Soviet publisher of children's literature, Raduga, was established a century ago and featured the debuts of many authors who would later go on to become famous, as well as illustrations by prominent artists. Based on a research paper by Marina Sazonenko, graduate of the HSE Doctoral School of Art and Design, IQ.HSE examines how — and why — the illustrations in Soviet periodicals for children changed over time.
This December, HSE University’s Poletayev Institute for Theoretical and Historical Studies in the Humanities hosted Professor Juliane Fürst, from Leibniz Centre for Contemporary History, who gave a lecture about Soviet hippies and the Soviet Flower Power. In an interview with HSE News Service, Professor Fürst spoke about her interest in Soviet subcultures and her research plans.
On September 30, Stephen Riegg, Assistant Professor of History of the Texas A&M University, presented his book Russia’s Entangled Embrace: The Tsarist Empire and the Armenians, 1801-1914 at the first seminar of this year’s Boundaries of History series.We spoke with Professor Alexander Semyonov, the seminar chair and the Director of the HSE Centre for Historical Research, about the goals of the seminar and to Stephen Riegg about his research.