Don’t go to grad school

A professor at a university says this:

Far from being “the perfect food,” milk offers a narrative about progress and perfection that embodies “the politics of American identity over the last 150 years” argues DuPuis, linking “the perfect whiteness of this food and the white body genetically capable of digesting it”…

Animal studies scholarship includes the varying approaches of posthumanism, human–animal studies, and critical animal studies…A recent article in Society and Animals appears to invoke Donna Haraway’s post-humanist construction of factory-farmed animals as “workers” in its framing and discussion of dairy cows as collaborating with the dairy producer. Haraway refers to “laboratory working animals” and “working animals in the food and fiber industries” as if being the experimental animal or the animal whose body is confined within the structures of industrial animal production were a sustainable “job” that animals might willingly choose, or resign from.

From the more activist standpoint of critical animal studies, “Haraway’s work has become paradigmatic of a largely depoliticized approach within Animal Studies,” evincing a clear humanist interest in human–animal relations that maintains species dominance. To date, the majority of research on milk comes from food studies scholars, vegan feminist and ecofeminist scholars, and feminist environmental science sources such as Sandra Steingraber’s Having Faith (2001) and Maia Boswell-Penc’s Tainted Milk (2006).

Both science sources address the nutritional value of human breast milk for mother and child, the “body-burden” of environmental toxins transferred through that milk, and more specifically the environmental racism challenged by the Akwesasne Mothers’ Milk project. Advocacy groups such as Environmental Working Group and the MOMS and POPS project regularly monitor milk as an environmental indicator of health, and have found perchlorate (a rocket fuel) in every sample of California supermarket cows’ milk as well as fame retardants (PBDE), pesticides (lindane, endosulfan, DDT), and other POPS in human breast milk.

This movement in environmental science affirms Katsi Cook’s insight that the mother’s body is the first environment, an insight that links the concerns of feminism, environmental justice, and interspecies justice. Postcolonial studies offers another critical perspective, building on Alfred Crosby’s concept of “ecological imperialism” to describe both the ruthless appropriation of indigenous land — particularly violating indigenous women, queers, and animals — and the introduction of exotic livestock and European agricultural practices.

The ecofeminists Val Plumwood and Vandana Shiva have pointed out the ways dualistic thinking and instrumental reasoning of the “Master Model” have constructed nature, the indigenous, and the animal as “other” to meet human (elite male) needs, and biocolonization functions as a continued practice, patenting indigenous knowledges and genetics, all under cover of “progress” through Western science and agribusiness.

Environmental racism and classism exemplify additional contemporary colonial practices, linking the continued expropriation of resources and transfer of wastes to communities of color, and rural and impoverished communities around the world. Until the work of Graham Huggan and Helen Tiffin, postcolonial studies had yet to “resituate the species boundary and environmental concerns” at the center of its inquiry, examining the “interfaces between nature and culture, animal and human.”

In spite of herself, Gaard also notes that since 1970 “consumption of cows’ milk has increased 17 times in China and 2.4 times in India.” Must be all the elite white maleness, eh? What does such a person think about Keystone? AGW? Etc. They have lifetime employment and are teaching your kids. Beware!

Update: Roger Kimball has some thoughts on this as well.

One Response to “Don’t go to grad school”

  1. MarkD Says:

    My daughter just finished a STEM PhD and is making very good money doing real scientific research at a for-profit company. So, “don’t go to grad school” is not necessarily good advice. It depends on the school, what you study, and what it costs, and most of all, your advisor.

    If you pay to go to grad school to learn one of the various “isms” or “studies” from a charlatan – if you get a degree which only qualifies you to you to teach, you are at best a fool and a victim. I have more respect for Jim Jones than those who lead these pseudoscientific cults – he drank his own Kool Aid.

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