Milk, Modernity and the Making of the Human: Purifying the Social, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Milk, Modernity and the Making of the Human

Purifying the Social, 1st Edition

By Richie Nimmo


210 pages

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This book undertakes a critique of the pervasive notion that human beings are separate from and elevated above the nonhuman world and explores its role in the constitution of modernity.

The book presents a socio-material analysis of the British milk industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It traces the dramatic development of the milk trade from a cottage industry into a modernised and integrated system of production and distribution, examining the social, economic and political factors underpinning this transformation, and also highlighting the important roles played by various nonhumans, such as microbes, refrigeration technologies, diseases, and even cows themselves. Milk as a substance posed deep social and material problems for modernity, being hard to transport and keep fresh as well as a highly fertile environment for the growth of bacteria and the transmission of diseases such as tuberculosis from cows to humans. Milk, Modernity and the Making of the Human demonstrates how the resulting insecurities and dilemmas posed a threat to the nature/culture divide as milk consumption grew along with urbanization, and had therefore to be managed by emergent forms of scientific and sanitary knowledge and expertise.

Milk, Modernity and the Making of the Human is an ideal volume for any researcher interested in the hybrid socio-material, economic and political factors underpinning the transformation of the milk industry.

Table of Contents

Introduction: modernity, humanity and nonhumans 1. The anthropocentrism of 'culture': a critique of humanist discourse 2. Milk and modernity Part I: commodities, networks and monopolies 3. Culture, order and disease in late nineteenth-century British dairying 4. Purifying milk: knowledge, sanitation and discipline 5. Milk and modernity Part II: measurement, rationalization and control 6. Beyond 'culture' and 'nature': towards a post-humanist knowledge

About the Author

Dr. Richie Nimmo is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Manchester, UK. His research explores the ambiguous status of nonhumans in modern knowledge-practices and the constitution of ‘the social’ across materially heterogeneous relations, systems and flows.

About the Series


Culture, Economy and the Social

This series establishes the importance of innovative contemporary, comparative and historical work on the relations between social, cultural and economic change. It publishes empirically-based research that is theoretically informed, that critically examines the ways in which social, cultural and economic change is framed and made visible, and that is attentive to perspectives that tend to be ignored or side-lined by grand theorising or epochal accounts of social change. The series addresses the diverse manifestations of contemporary capitalism, and considers the various ways in which the `social', `the cultural' and `the economic' are apprehended as tangible sites of value and practice. It is explicitly comparative, publishing books that work across disciplinary perspectives, cross-culturally, or across different historical periods.

We are particularly focused on publishing books in the following areas that fit with the broad remit of the series:

  • Cultural consumption
  • Cultural economy
  • Cities and urban change
  • Materiality, sociality and the post-human
  • Culture and media industries
  • Culture and governance
  • Emerging forms of cultural and economic practice

The series is actively engaged in the analysis of the different theoretical traditions that have contributed to critiques of the `cultural turn'. We are particularly interested in perspectives that engage with Bourdieu, Foucauldian approaches to knowledge and cultural practices, Actor-network approaches, and with those that are associated with issues arising from Deleuze's work around complexity, affect or topology. The series is equally concerned to explore the new agendas emerging from current critiques of the cultural turn: those associated with the descriptive turn for example. Our commitment to interdisciplinarity thus aims at enriching theoretical and methodological discussion, building awareness of the common ground has emerged in the past decade, and thinking through what is at stake in those approaches that resist integration to a common analytical model.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General