Annual HOS Workshop
Risk on the Table: Food, Health, and Environmental Exposures
Workshop, March 10–11, 2017, Princeton University
Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies & Program in History of Science
The purity and safety of the food supply is an old issue, for ordinary people, experts, and state authorities. However, the so-called chemo-gastric revolution and the industrialization of agriculture catalyzed a new set of controversies about the risks of food, especially after World War II. Several developments were implicated in these debates, including the reporting of health issues in the media; the proliferation of synthetic chemicals as additives, preservatives, pesticides, drugs, and packaging; the biological selection of newly pathogenic bacteria by use of antibiotics and containment facilities in agriculture; and improved techniques for detecting minute levels of contaminants along with new understandings of health-hazards for low-dose exposure. This workshop will examine the confluence of hazards and concerns that characterize the focus on risk in food, addressing in particular two issues: (1) the impact of industrialization on the nature of food—and how it was perceived, and (2) the changing modes of identifying and objectifying dangers, particularly from the sciences of nutrition and toxicology. We expect the papers to illuminate these larger debates and controversies by considering trajectories of specific nutrients and contaminants, including regulatory responses and their limits.
Members of the Program faculty normally sponsor a theme-based workshop or series of workshops. Themes from the past decade include “Groovy Science: The Counter-Cultures and Scientific Life, 1955-1975,” “Structure at 50: Assessing and Reassessing Kuhn and His Legacy,” “Science Across the Seas,” “Science Across Cultures,” and “Atomic Sciences.” These all-day events involve speakers from beyond Princeton and normally take place on Friday and/or Saturday, and are open to participants in the university community and beyond. All history of science graduate students are expected to participate actively (if there are pre-circulated papers, as readers and discussants). The workshops provide our graduate students an unusual opportunity for entering into the professional community of History of Science and for establishing personal contacts with other scholars.