January 25, 2019

Sarah Czerny Making milk, making persons: An account of milk production in the Rijeka region

For anyone with an interest in human and animal relations, the substance of milk has the potential to be of great analytical interest because it is perhaps the only bodily substance that is regularly produced and consumed by both humans and nonhumans. As I will outline at the start of this lecture, there is nevertheless what I perceive to be a shortfall within social science analysis about its production and consumption. For the most part, scholars place their analytical focus on either human or nonhuman milk production and consumption. As a result, scholarly work appears to itself be contributing to the construction of the human-nonhuman divide that has been the source of so much critique in anthropological writing and wider. In this lecture I am going to argue that this “shortcoming” should be redressed by considering both human and nonhuman milk production and consumption at the same time. Using examples from ethnographic fieldwork in the Rijeka region, I contend that much can be analytically gained by exploring how humans work to “animalize” or “humanize” milk in their everyday practices and relations. However, I also caution that we must not only approach milk as a substance that is shaped into an human or animal product by human labour. As I draw out in the final part of this lecture, milk also has considerable influence into shaping the form that humans take as humans and animals as animals.

Sarah Czerny is Assistant professor in Social Anthropology at the Department of Cultural Studies, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Rijeka. She teaches the courses Interdisciplinary, Science and Society, Human and Animal Relations, Myth and Culture, Cultural Geography and Introduction to Social Anthropology. She did her PhD, MSc by Research and undergraduate degree at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh. PhD was funded by a scholarship from the Economic and Social Research Council, UK. Currently, she works on researching the production and negotiation of expert knowledge in milk consumption (human, donkey, cow, goat, sheep), with a particular focus on microbial politics. Sarah is a member of the Expert Council for the Disability Office, University of Rijeka, European Association of Social Anthropologists and International Union of Anthropological and Ethnographic Sciences.


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