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Salazar Parreñas Juno | Fellow Visitor
2024-05-28 - 2024-06-30 | Research area: Sustainability Research
Dairy Farming Co(w)-Evolution: From the Holocene to the Anthropocene

Lactase persistence (LP), or the ability to digest dairy into adulthood, is an evolved human trait that began appearing alongside animal domestication during the Holocene. In Europe, LP coincides with dairy farming. Neo-Nazi and so-called Alt-Right discourse imagines LP as a biologicalsign of white supremacy, ignoring research that shows LP has developed in scattered populations around the world, especially in Africa. Meanwhile, in the Anthropocene, dairy farming is increasingly recognized as a polluting source for carbon and methane emission. Increased environmentalism in Europe has dramatically reduced dairy consumption while dairy farmers are experiencing greaterpressure to adopt expensive technologies as the European dairy industry consolidates and leads to farm failures in the name of sustainability (Butler and Holloway 2016; Marescotti et al. 2021; Rest 2021; Zingone et al. 2017). These conditions lead me to this research question: How is deep, coevolutionary history of European dairy farming narrated and remembered while currently being threatened by increasingly climate-valuing European consumers whose consumption of dairy has declined and by increased automation and pressure on dairy farmers to adopt new technologies? This project entails researching contemporary scientific literature on dairying and LP as well as ethnographic and discursive research involving European bovine farmers and climate, vegan, and animal activists. A 3-week residency at KLI in June will allow me to synthesize my research data and complete a chapter of my second single-author book.
Tentatively titled Short Stories, Long Lives: Animal Retirement on an Overworked Planet, the book will only consist of three chapters, hence a residency at KLI would be crucial for completion of the manuscript. The book project is about the problem of climate breakdown as imposed on animals that are valued for their use as cultural icons, namely repatriated lions in South Africa, a geriatric polar bear in tropical Singapore that worked at the world-famous Singapore Zoo until it died, and dairy cows in lowland Germany and the Austrian alps. The book project extends debates in social theory and feminist theory on labor into the fields of environmental studies and nonhuman animal studies. It is poised to make a theoretical contribution that recognizes how animals are subjected to human social and ecological inequalities.