2nd Edition

Re-imagining Milk Cultural and Biological Perspectives

By Andrea Wiley Copyright 2016
    170 Pages 36 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    170 Pages 36 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Milk is a fascinating food: it is produced by mothers of each mammalian species for consumption by nursing infants of that species, yet many humans drink the milk of another species (mostly cows) and they drink it throughout life. Thus we might expect that this dietary practice has some effects on human biology that are different from other foods. In Re-imagining Milk Wiley considers these, but also puts milk-drinking into a broader historical and cross-cultural context. In particular, she asks how dietary policies promoting milk came into being in the U.S., how they intersect with biological variation in milk digestion, how milk consumption is related to child growth, and how milk is currently undergoing globalizing processes that contribute to its status as a normative food for children (using India and China as examples). Wiley challenges the reader to re-evaluate their assumptions about cows' milk as a food for humans. Informed by both biological and social theory and data, Re-imagining Milk provides a biocultural analysis of this complex food and illustrates how a focus on a single commodity can illuminate aspects of human biology and culture.

    1. Introduction: On the "specialness" of milk 2. Population variation in milk digestion and dietary policy 3. A Brief History of Milk Consumption: Europe and the U.S. 4. Milk consumption, calcium, and child growth 5. Growing children around the world: the globalization of childhood milk consumption 6. Conclusion


    Andrea S. Wiley is Professor of Anthropology and Director of Human Biology at Indiana University, Bloomington. She has conducted research in India and has longstanding research interests in milk consumption and human biology. Her previous books include Cultures of Milk: The Biology and Meaning of Dairy Products in the United States and India (Harvard University Press, 2014), An Ecology of High Altitude Infancy (Cambridge University Press, 2004), and Medical Anthropology: A Biocultural Perspective, Second Edition (with John Allen, Oxford University Press, 2013).

    Who could imagine that an everyday substance like milk could be so fascinating? Or that such a slim volume could have so much depth? Wiley shows us the power of a bio-cultural approach to food on every page, in a format that is both comprehensive and easy for students to digest.
    Richard Wilk, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Indiana University Center for the Study of Food

    Re-imagining Milk untangles the complicated interconnections between our social and biological lives, challenging our myths and assumptions about a seemingly simple and "good" food. It is a clear, concise, and thoughtful case study suitable for courses in such fields as anthropology, nutrition, health, and human biology.
    Alexandra A. Brewis, Arizona State University

    Andrea Wiley’s biocultural account is an indispensable guide to milk, both as substance and symbol. Whether explaining the difference between dairy allergies and lactose intolerance or the complexity of commodity pricing, Wiley's easy-to-digest scientific explanations and illuminating cross-cultural analyses do the reader good. By making sense of contemporary dietary controversies in light of milk's evolutionary and cultural history, Wiley clearly separates the myths from the realities of milk’s exceptionalism.
    Heather Paxson, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    An intelligent, fascinating and highly accessible book that carefully and methodically walks the reader through the genetics of milk digestion, milk’s role in nutrition and the politics of food and health. A wonderful book for any course that includes food politics. A fantastic read that disentangles and illuminates how and why milk has become a global commodity.
    Crystal Patil, University of Illinois at Chicago