Department of English

University of Toronto

Mammoths, Metabolism, and Mechanized Meat: Great Britain’s Imperial Cold Chain in the Nineteenth Century

Event date: Wednesday, March 21, 2018, at 7:30 PM

Wednesday 21 March 2018
7:30pm (coffee at 7:00pm)
Bahen Centre 1200, University of Toronto

Rebecca Woods(Institute for the Philosophy and History of Science, University of Toronto):

Mammoths, Metabolism, and Mechanized Meat:
Great Britain’s Imperial Cold Chain in the Nineteenth Century

This paper will tell the story of cold’s transformation from natural fact toartificial technology during the nineteenth century, beginning with theemergence of a prehistoric mammoth from the Siberian permafrost at the close ofthe eighteenth century. The bones of this animal played a role in formulatingtheories of evolution at the turn of the nineteenth century, and later it cameto serve a rhetorical purpose as novel articles of food, namely frozen meat,were introduced to British consumers in the nineteenth century. Wary ofingesting meat that had been dead for several months or more, boosters drewupon the Siberian mammoth, frozen for thousands of years before being safelyingested by Inuit dogs, to assuage the misgivings of skeptical diners. Themammoth thus speaks to humankind’s quest for control over the natural world; tothe importance of literal and figurative networks of imperial exchange;and to the technoscientific production of artificial cold in the mid to latenineteenth century.

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