Formulating citizenship: The microbiopolitics of the malfunctioning functional beverage
Human and microbial lives constantly intersect. However, accounts of microbial-human partnerings have yet to explore how producers, consumers, and regulators use their imaginings of microbiological activity to shape individual action. How do these understandings and imaginings of microbial life shape relationships with the state in an environment where citizens expect and demand that their government promote food safety via regulatory intervention? This article provides a theoretical framework for understanding producer and consumer responses to the regulatory crackdown over minimal levels of alcohol in kombucha in the U.S., as well as larger conversations about human–microbe relationships. Through interviews with kombucha producers and consumers, media analysis, and observation, I develop the concept of microbiological citizenship to analyze how producers and consumers of kombucha – a fermented tea – sought to preserve their relations with microbial life in the face of regulatory crackdown. Producer practices to re-manage and preserve microbial life in the face of structural difficulties suggest that for post-Pasteurians, encouragement of human–microbe relationships creates new ties of responsibility that promote collaboration rather than competition. Read through the lens of microbiological citizenship, the controversy over kombucha points to how acknowledging, and even welcoming, the microbial irruptions into human life opens up, complicates, and potentially addresses some of the troubling aspects of biological citizenship.
Keywordscitizenship microbiopolitics food multispecies
This project was supported by a SSRC-DPDF, a Mellon/ACLS doctoral dissertation fellowship, and by the Hixon-Riggs Early Career Fellowship in Science, Technology, and Society at Harvey Mudd College. I am indebted to Emily Martin, Peter Galison, and Caroline Jones for feedback on early drafts of this paper, to Hi’ilei Hobart, Gwen D’Arcangelis, Stacy Macías, Cherisse Yanit Nadal, and to the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and comments. This manuscript is comprised of original material and is not under review elsewhere. The study on which the research is based received exempt status from New York University’s Institutional Review Board, and additional research conducted in 2015–2016 received exempt status from the Claremont Graduate University’s Institutional Review Board. I have no competing interests in the research detailed in this manuscript.
- Armstrong, E. (2003) Conceiving risk, bearing responsibility. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
- CDC. (2016) More than 3 million US women at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancy. February 2, http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p0202-alcohol-exposed-pregnancy.html, accessed 4 March 2016.
- Cohen, L. (2003) A consumer’s republic: The politics of mass consumption in postwar America. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
- Foucault, M. (1977/1995) Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
- Foucault, M. (1978) The history of sexuality. In: Trans. Robert Hurley. Vol. 1. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
- Goodwin, L.S. (1999) The pure food, drink, and drug crusaders, 1879-1914. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co.Google Scholar
- Guthman, J. (2004) Agrarian dreams: The paradox of organic farming in California. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Halse, C. (2012) Bio-citizenship: Virtue discourses and the birth of the bio-citizen. In: Jan Wright and Valerie Harwood (eds.) Biopolitics and the ‘obesity epidemic’: Governing bodies. Routledge, pp. 45–59.Google Scholar
- Haraway, D. (2008) When species meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- Helm, J. (2010) Trendy fizzy drink is mushrooming. Msnbc.com, 23 April, http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/36571884/ns/health–diet_and_nutrition/t/trendy-fizzy-drink-mushrooming/, accessed May 24, 2011.
- Katz, S.E. (2006) The revolution will not be microwaved: Inside America’s underground food movements. White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.Google Scholar
- KBI. (2015) KBI approved alcohol testing methodology. http://kombuchabrewers.org/resources/approved-alcohol-testing-methods/. Last updated November 11, 2015, accessed 3 March 2016.
- Kirksey, S.E. (ed) (2014). The multispecies salon. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
- Latour, B. (1988) The pasteurization of France. Translated by Alan Sheridan and John Law. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Lévi-Strauss, C. (1969) The raw and the cooked: Mythologiques. Vol. I. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Lopez, B. (1986) Arctic dreams: Imagination and desire in a northern landscape. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
- Mintel. (2015) Tea and RTD Tea-US-Databook. http://ezproxy.library.nyu.edu:3815/display/716569/, accessed 1/12/2015.
- Nestle, M. (2010) Safe food: The politics of food safety. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Paxson, H. (2013) The life of cheese: Crafting food and value in America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
- Persson, A., Newman, C.E., Mao, L. and de Wit, J. (2016) On the margins of pharmaceutical citizenship: Not taking HIV medication in the “Treatment Revolution” era. Med Antropol. doi: 10.1111/maq.12274.
- Petryna, A. (2002) Life exposed: Biological citizenship after Chernobyl. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Priest, F.G. and Stewart, G.G. (eds) (2006) Handbook of brewing. Baton Rouge, FL: CRC Press.Google Scholar
- Rose, N. and Novas, C. (2005) Biological citizenship. In: Aihwa Ong and Stephen J. Collier (eds.) Global assemblages: Technology, politics, and ethics as anthropological problems. Malden, MA: Blackwell pp. 439–463.Google Scholar
- Sagan, D. (2011) The human is more than human: Interspecies communities and the new ‘facts of life’. Theorizing the contemporary, Cultural Anthropology website, April 24. http://www.culanth.org/fieldsights/228-the-human-is-more-than-human-interspecies-communities-and-the-new-facts-of-life.
- TTB. (2012) Vision and mission statement, www.ttb.gov/about/mission.shtml, accessed 28 January 2016.
- TTB. (2015) Kombucha information and resources. http://www.ttb.gov/kombucha/kombucha-general.shtml, last updated 5 January 2016, accessed 28 January 2016.
- United States Congress. Public Law 66, Statute 305. “National Prohibition Act” October 28, 1919/January 16, 1920.Google Scholar
- West, H.G. (2013) Thinking like a cheese: Towards and ecological understanding of the reproduciton of knowledge in contemporary artisan cheesemaking. In: Ellen, R., S. Lycett, S. Johns (eds.) Understanding cultural transmission: A critical anthropological analysis.Google Scholar