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Cheese is alive, and alive with meaning. Heather Paxson's beautifully written anthropological study of American artisanal cheesemaking tells the story of how craftwork has become a new source of cultural and economic value for producers as well as consumers. Dairy farmers and artisans inhabit a world in which their colleagues and collaborators are a wild cast of characters, including plants, animals, microorganisms, family members, employees, and customers. As "unfinished" commodities, living products whose qualities are not fully settled, handmade cheeses embody a mix of new and old ideas about taste and value. By exploring the life of cheese, Paxson helps rethink the politics of food, land, and labor today.
In Greece, women speak of mothering as "within the nature" of a woman. But this durable association of motherhood with femininity exists in tension with the highest incidence of abortion and one of the lowest fertility rates in Europe. In this setting, how do women think of themselves as proper individuals, mothers, and Greek citizens? In this anthropological study of reproductive politics and ethics in Athens, Greece, Heather Paxson tracks the effects of increasing consumerism and imported biomedical family planning methods, showing how women's "nature" is being transformed to meet crosscutting claims of the contemporary world. Locating profound ambivalence in people's ethical evaluations of gender and fertility control, Paxson offers a far-reaching analysis of conflicting assumptions about what it takes to be a good mother and a good woman in modern Greece, where assertions of cultural tradition unfold against a backdrop of European Union integration, economic struggle, and national demographic anxiety over a falling birth rate.