University of Toronto Press Blog

  • The New Frontiers of Flesh Food

    Written by guest blogger, Angela Lee.

    IV Meat

    Science and technology have indisputably allowed humans to live healthier and wealthier than ever before. However, there is also a dark underside to this unprecedented prosperity. The unforeseen, unintended, and often unwelcome consequences of scientific and technological interventions are often overlooked in the enthusiasm about both their actual accomplishments and promissory potentials. Negative consequences are particularly apparent in the realm of food and agriculture, where rampant environmental degradation, shocking animal cruelty, and persistent social injustices have been some of the steep prices paid for cheaper, faster, more abundant, and more processed food.

    Food is important to all of us, whether we like it or not, and to choose what we eat—whether in the form of indulgence or abstention—is to make inherent choices about ecological destruction, public health, global hunger, and animal welfare, whether intentionally or otherwise. Recent market trends suggest that consumers are becoming more attentive to the broader implications of their dietary choices, both individually and in the aggregate. Beyond growing environmental- and health-consciousness and awareness of farmed animal suffering, burgeoning interest in vegetarianism and veganism have also been driven by the increasing viability of vegetarian and vegan diets, enabled in part by innovations in the area of cellular agriculture.

    However, in addition to the traditional dichotomy of meat-eaters and plant-eaters, we are now seeing the formation of a murky space in between, attributable to a cadre of new and emerging scientific and technological developments currently at various stages of research and development. Examples include in vitro meat (also popularly referred to as “cultured meat” or “clean meat”, amongst other names), “animal-free dairy products”, and “chickenless eggs”. Each of these promises to reduce or eliminate the death and suffering of living bodies in the production of flesh food and other animal products. The reality, though, might be slightly more complicated.

    In vitro meat (IVM) is derived from a tissue engineering process that involves growing muscle tissue using starter stem cells from live animals, which are put into a culture medium where they proliferate with the help of a bioreactor, eventually becoming an edible flesh food. There are currently several different labs and startups around the world working towards making mass-produced IVM a commercial reality, including Memphis Meats, SuperMeat, and MosaMeat. IVM has already generated a great deal of attention and interest in the media, by investors, and within academia, with discourses about animal welfare, environmental sustainability, human health, and food safety being commonly invoked as strong arguments in favour of IVM and other related products. Yet, there is also a palpable unease about these kinds of technological interventions, and a range of important considerations that need to be thought through and debated within public discourse before they are adopted en masse as viable and appropriate alternatives to conventional modes of production and consumption.

    Law plays a pivotal role in mediating the trajectory of new technologies. Unfortunately, in this particular context, the law has struggled to keep pace with the rapid pace of technological development, exacerbated by the already fragmented nature of the food law and policy landscape. Ethical considerations may also be falling by the wayside in the rush to embrace technological fixes for complicated problems. The goal of building a just, sustainable, and equitable food future for all is by no means a simple undertaking, and will require a multiplicity of voices, strategies, and tools in order to get there.

    Critical perspectives, including feminist ones, have worked to shed light on the fact that dominant discourses, structures of power, and institutional biases can obscure the reality that a rising scientific and technological tide does not necessarily raise all ships. Indeed, the distribution of the burdens and benefits of technologies are often profoundly uneven. Despite their claims to objectivity and neutrality, science and technology can themselves function as forms of ideology—infused with a particular set of implicit assumptions—with the knowledge and outcomes they produce being partial and incomplete as a result. In an effort to provide a more nuanced consideration of the broader, systemic implications of IVM and other similar developments, my recent article in the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, “Meat-ing Demand: Is In Vitro Meat a Pragmatic, Problematic, or Paradoxical Solution?” engages an ecofeminist perspective in addressing the question of whether IVM truly is a silver bullet, or whether it simply represents the trading of one set of problems for another. At this fork in the road, I encourage you to take pause before picking up the fork on your plate and reflect on the intra-generational, inter-generational, and inter-species injustices associated with food production and consumption, and the myriad ways they intersect.

    Angela Lee is a PhD candidate at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law. Her doctoral research focuses on issues related to the environment, technology, animals, feminism, and food. She co-teaches a seminar on Food Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, and is co-editing a forthcoming volume on Food Law in Canada. Her article “Meat-ing Demand: Is In Vitro Meat a Pragmatic, Problematic, or Paradoxical Solution?” can be found in the latest issue of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law. Read it here: https://doi.org/10.3138/cjwl.30.1.1.

  • The Meaning of Change: Your Guide to the Upcoming Ontario Election

    In advance of the June 7, 2018 Ontario election, we asked the authors of The Politics of Ontario, Cheryl N. Collier and Jonathan Malloy, to outline how their recently published book will provide Ontario voters with the necessary background to make an informed decision. 

    In the run-up to the Ontario provincial election on June 7, what better guide to the Ontario political scene than our recently-published book The Politics of Ontario? We led fifteen expert contributors from across Ontario in an in-depth analysis of all aspects of the Ontario political scene, from the economy to the media to racial diversity and much more. The result is an engaging book that connects short-term current issues and partisan debates to the long-term context of Canada’s most populous and diverse province.

    Elections are always about change, but the contrast in 2018 is particularly stark, with the Progressive Conservatives and NDP both challenging the long-entrenched Liberals with two very contrasting directions for change. The underlying theme of The Politics of Ontario is also change—but more precisely, uneven and contested change. What has happened to Ontario in recent years? What hasn’t happened? And has too much happened—in some cases, too quickly?

    For example, our book outlines the remarkable and ever-growing racial diversity of the province and the “firsts” of Kathleen Wynne as an openly gay woman premier, but also the underrepresentation of women and racialized minorities and the continuing dominance of traditional male elites in political and economic life. We examine the decline of Ontario’s traditional manufacturing base, its lurching and uncertain fiscal health, the largely failed Liberal green energy strategy, and the decline of Ontario’s preeminence in Confederation. Despite these challenges, Ontario maintains a fundamental diversified strength and continuing position of wealth within Canada. We review the massive upheaval of municipal institutions in Ontario over the last two decades, and whether any of this was necessary. And we offer an insider’s look at the McGuinty and Wynne governments and the tension between public policy decision-making at Queen’s Park and the reality of politics on the ground. We also analyze:

    - The distinct political culture of Northern Ontario and the “politics of extraction”
    - The relevance of traditional media and the Ontario press gallery in the twenty-first century
    - The roller-coaster state of labour relations in Ontario over the last thirty years
    - The legislative and executive institutions of Ontario and where power really lies
    - Ontario’s unusual confluence of environmental and electricity policy, often with unexpected and costly consequences
    - The growth of Toronto as a global city ambivalent about its role and standing in the province

    So, when all is said and done, has Ontario politics really changed? Graham White’s opening chapter asks “whether the scale of social change evident in Ontario since 1950 has been matched by a similar scale of change politically” (3) and our book suggests it has not. We outline how Ontarians both historically and today have been mostly politically indifferent, with a limited appetite for new ideas or profound change. We stand by this assessment even in the era of Doug Ford, who brings a new style to Ontario politics but with a familiar message that recent changes have happened too fast and need to be frozen or turned back. Again and again, The Politics of Ontario finds surprisingly limited change. Ontario has among the lowest voter turnout levels in the country, and the exact same three political parties in the legislature for over sixty years—no other party has even briefly broken into the club, unlike every other province in Canada. Instead, the existing parties constantly change and adapt, often very opportunistically. In fact, the very way in which:

    - Doug Ford was able to discard Patrick Brown’s entire platform and strategy;
    - The Wynne government could flip the script from a priority of balancing the budget in 2017 to blowing out the deficit this year; and
    - The Rae government’s hard-won lessons about the perils of promising too much appear to have been entirely erased from NDP party history and platforms;

    …all show the essential hollowness and lack of enduring principles that characterize Ontario political parties, who as we say in the book, “...show little aptitude for ideas that endure beyond the next election date; nor do they engage citizens and societal forces beyond their small bands of loyalists… [E]ven by the modest standards of Canadian political parties generally, Ontario parties are weak as democratic vehicles, and serve primarily as election machines at the disposal of their leaders.” (206)

    The Politics of Ontario does not predict the winner of the 2018 election; it is written for the long run, and about the challenges that will face whoever does win. It presents both valuable background history and current analysis that provide illumination through the fog of election campaigns.

    The 2018 provincial election is likely to be bitter and tough, and The Politics of Ontario will be a valuable guide to what change really means in Ontario.

    The Politics of Ontario is edited by Cheryl N. Collier and Jonathan Malloy with chapters contributed by:

    Graham White
    Matthias Oschinski
    Rand Dyck
    Peter Woolstencroft
    Tracey Raney
    Bryan Evans
    Daniel Henstra
    Julie M. Simmons
    Tamara A.Small
    Gina Comeau
    Anna Esselment
    Mark Winfield
    Myer Siemiatycki
    Larry Savage
    Martin Horak

    Cheryl N. Collier is Associate Professor and Undergraduate Chair in the Department of Political Science and Co-Director of the Health Research Centre for the Study of Violence Against Women at the University of Windsor.

    Jonathan Malloy is Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science at Carleton University.

  • Encountering History through Primary Sources: Medieval England

    As we prepare for this year’s International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, we reflect on the significance of our immensely popular series of primary source texts: Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures. The series, edited by Paul Edward Dutton, has now reached twenty volumes, and has made it possible for instructors to design new and innovative medieval history courses. To mark the publication this season of the new edition of Medieval England, 500-1500: A Reader, and to celebrate the contributions of the RMCC series, we are pleased to share the following post by Katherine Allen Smith on the joys of teaching and learning through primary sources.

    As a first-semester undergraduate, my favorite class was a 100-level history course on “England from Julius Caesar to Elizabeth I.” The class struck that perfect balance between big-picture and personal narrative, and our professor had a knack for telling stories that were memorably sad (Orderic Vitalis’s father leaving his eleven-year-old son in a Norman monastery), dramatic (remember the ailing Richard the Lionheart directing the Siege of Acre from his silk-draped litter?), or gross (think William the Conqueror’s corpse bursting during his funeral at Caen). He lectured from an ancient notebook, turning its onion-skin pages so carefully as to imbue them with an aura of mystery. We freshmen mostly listened and tried to write everything down, the bolder of us asking questions. (As one of the shyest students in the class, I rarely raised my hand, though I was often puzzled by the discrepancies between the pronunciation and spelling of so many English place-names, not to mention the intricacies of medieval currency.)

    This course helped me see that doing history could be as exciting as detective work—like Inspector Alan Grant tackling the mystery of the “Princes in the Tower” from his hospital bed in Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time—and awakened me to the existence of primary sources (a foreign concept to many American high schoolers of my generation). These firsthand accounts were a revelation to me. You have to admit, it is pretty incredible that we can eavesdrop on sixteenth-century court gossip via ambassadorial communiqués, or peruse Henry VIII’s personal household budget (and, by the way, you would not believe the quantities of meat and fish he and his courtiers consumed). At the end of that first semester in college, I declared a History major and spent much of the next three-and-a-half years learning as much about the past—in particular, about the medieval and early modern centuries in Europe—as I could.

    The further I’ve gotten from my undergraduate experience, the more clearly I can see the immense value of the critical reading and research skills I gained at college, but also how much I missed out on. In four years of studying history, I learned a great deal about kings and wars, the growth of political institutions and legal systems, but relatively little about the 99% of people who were excluded from power in the past. The vast majority of the historical actors I encountered were men, though at the end of my college career I took a fabulous class on premodern private life which fully integrated women’s experiences (using the groundbreaking first edition of my co-editor Emilie Amt’s Women’s Lives in Medieval Europe: A Reader, published by Routledge in 1993). My college self’s view of what constituted a valid historical source was also quite narrow, being confined to things like chronicles, legal records, letters, and speeches; certainly I had little sense of how one might “read” archaeological findings, works of art, or literature as primary sources.

    Graduate school opened my eyes to social and cultural history, to considerations of how variables such as race and ethnicity, gender, social class, and age intersected to shape the experiences of historical individuals, and to the ways in which material culture and literary works could illuminate the past. When I began teaching my own courses, I was eager to expose my students to a multiplicity of historical perspectives, and to share with them the excitement of encountering the past through a wide range of primary sources. I began building classes around the innovative primary source collections that were coming out in the 1990s and early 2000s: Michael Goodich’s Other Middle Ages: Witnesses at the Margins of Medieval Society (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998) formed the basis for a class on the experiences of marginalized groups in medieval Europe, and I was so taken with Jacqueline Murray’s wonderful Love, Marriage, and Family in the Middle Ages: A Reader (University of Toronto Press, 2001) that I created a course with an identical title just so I could teach it. In the years since I discovered Murray’s reader, I’ve developed several courses around UTP’s Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures series: Alexander Callander Murray’s From Roman to Merovingian Gaul and Paul Edward Dutton’s Carolingian Civilization have provided foundations for courses on Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages; the first and now second edition of The Crusades (edited by S.J. Allen and Emilie Amt) has seen me through a dozen iterations of a course of the same name; and since 2006 I have been using the first edition of the Medieval England reader in my class on England from the Romans to the Tudors.

    Working with Emilie on the second edition of Medieval England: A Reader was great fun because it allowed me to revisit that class where I first discovered my love for history, and to add new sources that I think will delight, intrigue, and move students. It was also a real challenge, since we were eager to retain the strengths of the reader’s first edition. Published in 2001, it was notable for its inclusion of many different types of texts representing the experiences and perspectives of medieval English women as well as men, members of different socio-economic classes, and a range of political and spiritual viewpoints, as well as for its incorporation of lesser-known sources alongside old standards of English political and legal history. We aimed to preserve these aspects of the collection while expanding its chronological breadth and incorporating new sources that would offer instructors the possibility of teaching thematically and encourage students to draw comparisons over time and get creative with sources. In the end, we produced a second edition in which fully one-third of the material is new. Here are some of the highlights.

    Recognizing that most surveys of English history begin before 1066, we crafted a new first chapter to highlight key events and institutions of the Anglo-Saxon period from c. 500 onwards, and allow students to assess the impact of the Norman Conquest on the English. Many new sources are meant to work in conjunction with retained sources to elicit questions about continuity and change: readers might trace the concerns of rulers and subjects over several centuries, compare wills made by Anglo-Saxons with those of late medieval Londoners, or trace the evolution of attitudes towards English Jews. We were also keen to include examples of new genres that historians have used creatively in recent years, such as household account books and proof of age inquests, which give a sense of the texture of daily life in the Middle Ages. Finally, the second edition highlights the potential of non-textual sources to shed light on the past, and encourages readers to put texts into conversation with other forms of evidence. We hope you and your students will enjoy juxtapositions like an account of twelfth-century siege warfare with the plan of a contemporary Norman castle and Polydore Vergil’s account of the Battle of Bosworth with a description of Richard III’s recently rediscovered burial.

    This is just a small taste of the new material in the second edition of Medieval England: A Reader, which was just published this semester. For my own part, I am very excited to begin teaching with it! Now, back to working on my syllabus….

    Katherine Allen Smith is Associate Professor of History at University of Puget Sound.

  • University of Toronto Press Moves Offices to Accommodate New Book Publishing Division


    TORONTO - Canada’s largest scholarly publisher, University of Toronto Press (UTP), has outgrown the office it has called home for the past thirty years. On Monday, April 16, UTP’s book publishing staff from editorial, sales, marketing, design and production, as well as its human resources and administrative teams will settle into a brand new, state-of-the-art office space at the corner of Bay and College, in downtown Toronto.

    The move is part of a re-structuring for UTP’s much lauded publishing program. After a decade of operating on parallel paths, and in separate cities, the company’s Scholarly Publishing and Higher Education divisions are coming together under one roof. Moving forward, these two groups will join forces and resources as part of UTP’s Book Publishing Division.

    “Our new office is symbolic of the confidence we have in the future of scholarly publishing and in UTP itself,” says UTP’s Chief Executive Officer, John Yates.  “Consolidating the book publishing teams will make us more nimble and puts us in a better position to respond to the needs of our authors and customers, both at home and around the world.”

    The company’s spacious new location boasts an open-concept design, natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows and cutting-edge technologies. All of the workstations and panels are constructed from recycled materials, which represents more than an aesthetic consideration, according to Lynn Fisher, UTP’s Vice President, Book Publishing.

    “Being environmentally responsible is a corporate priority for us as a book publisher,” says Fisher. “Over the past few years, UTP has become widely seen as a major platform for new work in urban planning and environmental studies. That’s another reason we’d be remiss to not build a ‘healthier’ work space.”  

    UTP’s Book Publishing Division will be located at 800 Bay Street, Toronto, ON M5S 3A9. Phone numbers and email addresses are unchanged. Contact information for the company’s Journals, Retail and Distribution divisions remains the same.

    Founded in 1901, University of Toronto Press (UTP) is Canada’s leading scholarly publisher and one of the largest university presses in North America, releasing over 200 new scholarly, reference, and general-interest books each year, as well as maintaining a backlist of over 3500 titles in print. For more information, visit utorontopress.com.

  • Adventures in Blogging: Doing Public Anthropology in the Twenty-First Century

    To mark the publication of Adventures in Blogging: Public Anthropology and Popular Media, author Paul Stoller takes to the medium of blogging (again) to provide some background on the purpose of his new collection as well as the importance, at this particular historical moment, of anthropology and the sharing of anthropological knowledge.

    Our troubled world is in desperate need of anthropological insight.

    We are today witness to widespread political dysfunction, social disintegration, and ecological devastation. In the near future, this set of cumulative processes is likely to produce massive social dislocation, cultural chaos, and political disruption.

    Will we be able to survive the ravages of human-induced climate change?

    Our times require anthropological intervention. Anthropologists have long been the guardians of core social values. Since Franz Boas, we have been more than scholars who seek to unravel the mysteries of the human condition. Indeed, throughout the history of the discipline we have been advocates for social justice who have critiqued the scourge of racism, ongoing social inequality, and persistent ethnic and religious intolerance.

    Adventures in Blogging demonstrates how we can use anthropological insights to find our way through the turbulence of contemporary social life. In my research among the Songhay people of the Republic of Niger I had the great fortune of being the apprentice of a great healer, Adamu Jenitongo. He was a short, slight man who lived in a grass hut at the edge of the town of Tillaberi. What could such a man, whose title was sohanci, teach me—us—about living in the contemporary world?

    He taught me a great deal about the vicissitudes of life. He impressed upon me the value of slow learning. When I asked him about the sohanci’s central obligation, he responded without hesitation.

    “I am the spiritual guardian of this place,” he said. “If someone abuses their authority or subverts our core values, I use power to set things straight.”

    Above and beyond his reservoir of knowledge and practice, the sohanci is first and foremost a keen observer of social and political relations. Anthropologists are also keen observers of social and political relations. Like the Songhay sohanci, we, too, attempt to use our knowledge to make the world a better place. In these troubled times, it is crucial that we engage in one of anthropology’s core obligations—cultural critique—an informed, sustained, scientifically rigorous, and public assessment of our social and political life.

    In Adventures in Blogging, I try to show how this media format is a particularly powerful way to practice contemporary cultural critique. Originally published in The Huffington Post, the entries in Adventures in Blogging are short, punchy, and accessible texts. Taken together, these blog posts, which cover a six-year period (2011-2017), show how anthropologists can use this form of social media to produce a sustained cultural critique that underscores again and again the following values:

    1. Climate change exists and failure to recognize this fundamental fact condemns our children to climatic hell;
    2. Income and social inequality are not socially sustainable and failure to rectify them is a historically proven prescription for social and economic devastation;
    3. Corporatization will ruin the university;
    4. Ignorance is our enemy and hate has no place in society;
    5. Science is our friend and a pathway to the future; and
    6. The quest for well being is the source of human resilience.

    This list, of course, is far from exhaustive. In Adventures in Blogging, I have much to say about “fixing the truth” in our media, about manipulating false images and narratives for economic and/or political gain. I have much to say about how fewer and fewer people read books and/or articles. I have a great deal to say about the cluelessness of our public officials. Adventures in Blogging demonstrates how a socially mediated and sustained cultural critique is a powerful way to construct a strong alternative to social, cultural, and political dysfunction.

    In the end, this book is a clarion call for the next generation of anthropologists to become cultural critics. We need your sustained, rigorous, and accessible insights to mark a path to a better future. We need you to share your knowledge in the public sphere. Indeed, in the classroom Adventures in Blogging can be read as a guide for doing the important work of twenty-first-century public anthropology.

    Paul Stoller is Professor of Anthropology at West Chester University.

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