front cover of The Harlequin Eaters
The Harlequin Eaters
From Food Scraps to Modernism in Nineteenth-Century France
Janet Beizer
University of Minnesota Press, 2024

How representations of the preparation, sale, and consumption of leftovers in nineteenth-century urban France link socioeconomic and aesthetic history

The concept of the “harlequin” refers to the practice of reassembling dinner scraps cleared from the plates of the wealthy to sell, replated, to the poor in nineteenth-century Paris. In The Harlequin Eaters, Janet Beizer investigates how the alimentary harlequin evolved in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries from the earlier, similarly patchworked Commedia dell’arte Harlequin character and can be used to rethink the entangled place of class, race, and food in the longer history of modernism. 


By superimposing figurations of the edible harlequin taken from a broad array of popular and canonical novels, newspaper articles, postcard photographs, and lithographs, Beizer shows that what is at stake in nineteenth-century discourses surrounding this mixed meal are representations not only of food but also of the marginalized people—the “harlequin eaters”—who consume it at this time when a global society is emerging. She reveals the imbrication of kitchen narratives and intellectual–aesthetic practices of thought and art, presenting a way to integrate socioeconomic history with the history of literature and the visual arts. The Harlequin Eaters also offers fascinating background to today’s problems of food inequity as it unpacks stories of the for-profit recycling of excess food across class and race divisions.


front cover of Harvest of Hazards
Harvest of Hazards
Family Farming, Accidents, and Expertise in the Corn Belt, 1940-1975
Derek S. Oden
University of Iowa Press, 2017
Farming has always been a dangerous occupation. In the middle of the twentieth century, as farmers adopted a wide array of new technologies, from tractors to pesticides and fertilizers, the dangers became more acute. The economic pressures that agriculture faced in this period compounded the perils of these powerful new tools, as farmers struggled to stay profitable in the face of widespread consolidation.

In this study of the farm safety movement in the Corn Belt, historian Derek Oden examines why agriculture was so dangerous and why improvements were so difficult to achieve. Because farmers were self-employed business owners whose employees were mainly family members; because they lived far from aid such as hospitals and fire stations; and because they had to manage such a diverse array of new technologies, they could not easily adopt the workplace safety and public health reforms designed for factories and urban settings. In response, beginning in the 1940s, farmers and a new breed of farm safety specialists relied upon an increasingly elaborate educational campaign to lessen injuries and illnesses on the farm.

Several government, business, and nonprofit organizations—from the US Department of Agriculture to the National Safety Council and 4-H and the Future Farmers of America—worked together to publicize both the dangers of farming and the information farmers needed to stay safe while driving tractors, applying anhydrous ammonia, or repairing machinery. By the 1960s, however, the partnership began to break down, and by the 1970s the safety movement became increasingly contested as professional and policy divisions emerged. This groundbreaking study incorporates agriculture into the histories of occupational safety and public health.

front cover of Healing Grounds
Healing Grounds
Climate, Justice, and the Deep Roots of Regenerative Farming
Liz Carlisle
Island Press, 2022
A powerful movement is happening in farming today—farmers are reconnecting with their roots to fight climate change. For one woman, that’s meant learning her tribe’s history to help bring back the buffalo. For another, it’s meant preserving forest purchased by her great-great-uncle, among the first wave of African Americans to buy land. Others are rejecting monoculture to grow corn, beans, and squash the way farmers in Mexico have done for centuries. Still others are rotating crops for the native cuisines of those who fled the “American wars” in Southeast Asia.
In Healing Grounds, Liz Carlisle tells the stories of Indigenous, Black, Latinx, and Asian American farmers who are reviving their ancestors’ methods of growing food—techniques long suppressed by the industrial food system. These farmers are restoring native prairies, nurturing beneficial fungi, and enriching soil health. While feeding their communities and revitalizing cultural ties to land, they are steadily stitching ecosystems back together and repairing the natural carbon cycle. This, Carlisle shows, is the true regenerative agriculture – not merely a set of technical tricks for storing CO2 in the ground, but a holistic approach that values diversity in both plants and people.
Cultivating this kind of regenerative farming will require reckoning with our nation’s agricultural history—a history marked by discrimination and displacement. And it will ultimately require dismantling power structures that have blocked many farmers of color from owning land or building wealth. 
The task is great, but so is its promise. By coming together to restore these farmlands, we can not only heal our planet, we can heal our communities and ourselves.

front cover of The History of Wisconsin, Volume IV
The History of Wisconsin, Volume IV
The Progressive Era, 1893-1914
John D. Buenker
Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 1998

Published in Wisconsin's Sesquicentennial year, this fourth volume in The History of Wisconsin series covers the twenty tumultuous years between the World's Columbian Exposition and the First World War when Wisconsin essentially reinvented itself, becoming the nation's "laboratory of democracy."

The period known as the Progressive Era began to emerge in the mid-1890s. A sense of crisis and a widespread clamor for reform arose in reaction to rapid changes in population, technology, work, and society. Wisconsinites responded with action: their advocacy of women's suffrage, labor rights and protections, educational reform, increased social services, and more responsive government led to a veritable flood of reform legislation that established Wisconsin as the most progressive state in the union.

As governor and U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, Robert M. La Follette, Sr., was the most celebrated of the Progressives, but he was surrounded by a host of pragmatic idealists from politics, government, and the state university. Although the Progressives frequently disagreed over priorities and tactics, their values and core beliefs coalesced around broad-based participatory democracy, the application of scientific expertise to governance, and an active concern for the welfare of all members of society-what came to be known as "the Wisconsin Idea."


front cover of Hog Wild
Hog Wild
The Battle for Workers' Rights at the World's Largest Slaughterhouse
Lynn Waltz
University of Iowa Press, 2018
When Smithfield Foods opened its pork processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, in 1992, workers in the rural area were thrilled to have jobs at what was billed as “the largest slaughterhouse in the world.” However, they soon left in droves because of the fast, unrelenting line speed and high rate of injury. Those who stayed wanted higher wages and safer working conditions, but every time they tried to form a union, the company quickly cracked down, firing union leaders, assaulting organizers, and setting minority groups against each other. 
Author and journalist Lynn Waltz reveals how these aggressive tactics went unchecked for years until Sherri Buffkin, a higher-up manager at Smithfield, blew the lid off the company’s corrupt practices. Through meticulous reporting, in-depth interviews with key players, and a mind for labor and environmental histories, Waltz weaves a fascinating tale of the nearly two-decade struggle that eventually brought justice to the workers and accountability to the food giant, pitting the world’s largest slaughterhouse against the world’s largest meatpacking union. 
Following in a long tradition of books that expose the horrors of the meatpacking industry—from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle to Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food NationHog Wild uncovers rampant corporate environmental hooliganism, labor exploitation, and union-busting by one of the nation’s largest meat producers. Waltz’s eye-opening examination sheds new light on the challenges workers face not just in meatpacking, but everywhere workers have lost their power to collectively bargain with powerful corporations. 

front cover of How to Feed the World
How to Feed the World
Jessica Eise and Ken Foster
Island Press, 2018
By 2050, we will have ten billion mouths to feed in a world profoundly altered by environmental change. How can we meet this challenge? In How to Feed the World, a diverse group of experts from Purdue University break down this crucial question by tackling big issues one-by-one. Covering population, water, land, climate change, technology, food systems, trade, food waste and loss, health, social buy-in, communication, and, lastly, the ultimate challenge of achieving equal access to food, the book reveals a complex web of factors that must be addressed in order to reach global food security.
How to Feed the World unites contributors from different perspectives and academic disciplines, ranging from agronomy and hydrology to agricultural economy and communication. Hailing from Germany, the Philippines, the U.S., Ecuador, and beyond, the contributors weave their own life experiences into their chapters, connecting global issues to our tangible, day-to-day existence. Across every chapter, a similar theme emerges: these are not simple problems, yet we can overcome them. Doing so will require cooperation between farmers, scientists, policy makers, consumers, and many others.
The resulting collection is an accessible but wide-ranging look at the modern food system. Readers will not only get a solid grounding in key issues, but be challenged to investigate further and contribute to the paramount effort to feed the world. 

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