Liquid Gold: Lactation as Labor and Human Milk as Commodity in Transatlantic Visual Culture

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Liquid Gold: Lactation as Labor and Human Milk as Commodity in Transatlantic Visual Culture traces the commoditization of milk and lactating bodies throughout American history. Geographically and temporally ambitious, this dissertation is a visual, social history of America as transatlantic encounter, told through lactation history and imagery. Further, among a growing corpus of texts on transatlantic commodities that reveal previously hidden labor histories, here I position milk as not just a commodity, like gold, but as a valuable consumable good, like chocolate; in tracing its production, commoditization, and consumption, I make visible the foodways of human milk. This project makes a place for human milk as valuable food commodity among the recent explosion of foodway projects. In my project, milk is revealed for its value, and lactation as a valuable form of labor, in unique case studies throughout North American history: the European vision of the New World as a lactating body; lactation as a vital component of racial inscription in colonial Mexican casta paintings, midwifery and lactation support as cause for witchcraft suspicion in colonial New England and seen in illustrated witch hunting manuals, daguerreotypes of enslaved wet nurses and their charges, the rich visual evidence of attempts to replace human milk via industrialization and immigration in the early twentieth century, photographs chronicling a century of innovative milk banking in New York, and finally, how modern and contemporary artists deploy lactation imagery to examine American history and Transatlantic interaction.
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resistance; Women's studies; Colonialism; Lactation and Maternity; Slavery; Transatlantic Visual Culture; Breastfeeding
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Finley, Cheryl
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Woubshet, Dagmawi
Cohen, Ananda Irvena
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History of Art, Archaeology, and Visual Studies
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Ph.D., History of Art, Archaeology, and Visual Studies
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Government Document
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dissertation or thesis
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