to view paper abstracts for this panel

Saturday April 19th, 9.20-10.40 am
Aintzane Legarreta Mentxaka
Independent Scholar, Dublin
‘The Gendered World of Professional Cookery in Ireland’
Food has the ability to cross borders. Cookery books are best sellers, and a handful of them are of considerable
literary merit, bought by many who claim not to like reading. Cooking on television is more popular than ever,
sometimes authenticating ‘live’ programmes as part of an interest in the raw, in fly-on-the-wall documentaries or
programmes with homely settings. Cooking and eating are events produced by culture and sites of cultural
production. Cooking for pleasure is a marker of affluency and status. It seems that a partial breach of boundaries
between the rich and the middle class has allowed people on a budget to share in the latest trends in haute
cuisine. If Escoffier and Bocuse were once revered with religious zeal, nowadays many chefs have become as
popular and as carefully packaged as rock stars. Bullying, bankruptcy, alcoholism and drug-addition, the
traditional prerogatives of artistic genious, are as important to the chef’s accoutrement as the tea-towel hanging
from the side of the apron. In Ireland, eating out is now firmly part of a certain lifestyle that relies on displaying
the self in the right place, with the instant aura of connoisseurship granted by fresh cash. But what has been
happening behind doors? What revolutions have taken place by hot ranges, in walk-in fridges, in dry pantries
across the land? What defeats and humiliations? What daring experiments? Professional cookery, in Ireland like
elsewhere, is a gendered world, strictly regulated by unspoken codes of behaviour. To look at how gender is
manufactured and sold by and among chefs in this country, and to consider how gendered behaviours have been
crucial to the structure of professional cookery, gives us an insight into how individual and social identities are
created, presented, and maintained. In terms of gender, Irish kitchens only offer a set menu, but there have been
some interesting changes that signal the pliability of the profession, and suggest possible new directions for
professional cookery in Ireland.
Michelle Renee Ladd
Department of Liberal Studies, California State University
‘With Havana in My Mouth: The Erotics of Waste in U.S. Cigar Consumption, 1880-1930’
An early-twentieth century cigar label features a dandified man peering at a proclamation advertising a
new cigar: “The Tobacco from which this Cigar is made is grown only in Conservatories, the Cigars are made on
mahogany tables by thoroughbred Cubans dressed in swallowtail coats, white kid gloves, &c. Smoke one for it
will make your breath sweet, your teeth white, and is warranted to force a moustache on the smoothest lip in five
weeks.” The advertisement overtly asserts what other, more decorative cigar labels strongly imply. By smoking
a hand-crafted tobacco product, grown in exotic island climes, a man can recover the masculinity lost to modern
urban life. Made from raw materials that are fundamentally associated with exotic bodies – and fantasies about
those bodies – cigars are fashioned into objects of great value. Like other objects imbued with a mysterious
attraction that extends beyond their use or exchange, the cigar becomes much more than its raw material, an
object of substance. In spite of the cigar’s premodern resonances, however, its popularity was facilitated by
rationalized production methods that made cigars cheaper and more accessible, as well as newer modes of
advertising such as the cigar label.
Using cigar labels printed and distributed between 1880 and 1930, this paper examines the contingent
relationship between constructing the self and consuming the Other in modern American culture. More
importantly, though, it seeks to understand the complex matrix of the libidinal energy of consuming the Other
(or always, as Winston Churchill claimed, having Havana in one’s mouth); the ephemerality of both the cigar
and the cigar label; and waste (the decay of the smoker’s body, the decaying cigar-maker’s body in the factory)
embedded in the modern project.
As objects meant to be enjoyed on nearly every sensory level, yet ultimately smoked out of existence,
cigars perfectly emblematize the contradictions of modernity. Though cigars offer fleeting pleasure, the end of
which is always waste, they always also mark the weighty pursuit of self-motivated autonomy fundamental to
American identity. Cigars, then, are neither permanent nor completely evanescent. Their presence lingers in
ephemera, in cultural lore, and in the cigar butts that litter the novels that move American literature from realism
to naturalism to modernism at the turn of the twentieth century. Perhaps because the pleasures of comestible
and gustatory objects are fleeting, the experience of smoking is carefully intertwined with material culture (such
as cigar boxes, labels, and bands) and performance (the social rituals of smoking). These aspects of material
culture unite smokers, creating what Raymond Williams has called, “structures of feeling,” through which values
(such as masculinity and autonomy) can be enacted. Further, as part of the pleasure of smoking cigars lies in the
consumption of the Other (an alterity indicated both by the exotic qualities of tobacco and also the atavistic
and exotic character of the labor involved in crafting cigar), the smoker is always consuming the worker, be the
cigar-maker a Cuban trained in traditional crafts; a factory-worker in New York City who embodies the anxieties
of the city (the working class, labor unions, etc.); or a woman, who in mythology rolls cigars on smooth brown
thighs but, in reality, was increasingly responsible for making the factory-produced cigars of the early twentiethcentury. Each of these types of labor enhances the pleasure of smoking even as it signals the threat of the city,
the immigrant, and the Other in the lives of genteel American men of the period.
Finally, on many levels, smoking represents the kind of obsolescence at the root of cultural anxiety
about materiality. Neither the cigars nor the cigar labels were meant to last. In examining these labels, ephemera
takes on new dimensions. These images become more than visual evidence of now-unfashionable attitudes
about “America’s” raced and gendered Others. They illustrate that the modern autonomous self, so present in
rhetorics of national identity, relied on an untenuous distinction between self and other that was predicated on
particular relations to objects, objects whose materiality was often insubstantial.
Robin Nagle
New York University, Draper Interdisciplinary Master's Program, New York City Department of
‘Status, Stigma, Stink: Sanitation Workers and the Affect of Maligned Labour’
The material culture of everyday household rhythms in much of the world involves various mundane items –
food and its packaging, paper goods, personal hygiene products, a variety of plastics – that have a short useful
life and are then discarded. In the process, they are transformed from individual named objects to a lumpen,
mashed-up category called rubbish. If there’s any affect attached to this rejectamenta, it is either neutral (who
cares about trash?) or negative (garbage? gross!), though such affect is also short-lived. Once a good has gone
bad and is thrown away, it occupies little attention.
But garbage – a material culture category in its own right – is the organizing focus of an army of
workers whose labours must be constant and tightly organized to manage ceaseless flows of waste from homes,
businesses and municipalities to landfills, incinerators, and recycling centres. Though their work is essential to
the well-being of any metropolis, both the labourers and their labours are colored by the same affect – neutrality
or negativity – that adheres to rubbish itself. This paper explores the difficult status that such a worker must
negotiate in performing a vitally important task while mediating an often troubling set of labels imposed on him
by the public he serves. I draw on fieldwork with municipal sanitation workers (a.k.a. “garbage men”) in New
York City, some of whom cast off the judgment they suffer for their work and some of whom carry it as a
constant burden. I will show how the varieties of affect that are part of the job influence the sense of community,
anomie, and identity that mark New York’s Sanitation rank-and-file, and explain why even workers who will not
tell their neighbors what they do for a living will stay on the job long past the twenty years they need to collect
their pension.