For the occasion of Shelf Life, Jamie Allen presents ideas that draw methodological, material and cultural links between “soil” and “bread”. Both products of diverse microbiology, soil and bread are things that show up often in historical and contemporary political ecological thought. They are conjoined, centrally significant, culturally and materially nurturing practices and metaphors. From Marx’s writing about the poverty of the soil and the adulteration of bread, to recent interest in the microbial epistemologies of people like Lynn Margulis, to “white bread bio-politics” that expose the racial, classist and colonial underpinnings of agriculture and nutrition, soil-to-slice relations abide and endure. Biologically active humus and the baking of flour, water, and yeast help us think about aggregates and in aggregate (a microbiological cultural technique), and how earth’s ecosystems have become part of an expansive and sustaining digestive system.
“Shelf Life. Ferment-Activity and Nurturing Materials” is an Online Event on 10 December 2020 hosted by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin’s Matters of Activity Cluster of Excellence. The programme addresses practices of food transformation, preservation, and consumption, the newly woven symbiotic entities emerge from fermentation processes and enter into a different ecosystem – that of the human body, itself a multi-organism entity.

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