Food Allergies and the Hygienic Sublime

My latest peer-reviewed, scholarly research article, “Food Allergies and the Hygienic Sublime,” was published in December 2019 in the open-access journal, Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience. You can read the full article for free here.

Abstract

People living with food allergies in the United States use a variety of strategies to ensure that their food and homes are clean, free of allergens, and therefore safe for their specific needs. Yet the pursuit of purity is not merely a practical or material matter, but a semiotic one as well, and it is shaped by histories of race, gender, class, and family structure in the United States. I call this material-semiotic configuration of purity the hygienic sublime. The hygienic sublime relies upon and reproduces social norms and hierarchies concerning gendered labor in the home, racialized expectations of who can be considered pure, class anxieties expressed through aspirational consumption, and normative family structure. Written against the backdrop of resurgent debates concerning sexual, national, and personal purity in the second decade of the 21st century, this paper demonstrates the broader historical and political stakes of purity politics, especially when they are centered around caretaking activities in the private space of the home.

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