This page features videos on the global history of monoculture and related topics. They serve as a multimedia digest to the work of our research group. All videos are available on Youtube.
What is monoculture? The following video of September 2023 explains our approach to monoculture, culminating with the proclamation of a law that should guide the study of monocultures worldwide: Frank’s Law of Monoculture (FLOM).
This video was produced by the University of Birmingham in April 2021, when news of the ERC Advanced Grant was just a few days old.
This video predates the MaMoGH project, but my presentation at the Nobel Conference 54 in 2018 complements some of the debates in the MaMoGH group. Dedicated to the Living Soil, the 2018 Nobel Conference invited a diverse range of speakers, and I came to represent the humanities. Following up on several speakers with a scientific background, the presentation reviews the history of soil conservation, pointing to a notable divergence of intentions, policies, and day-to-day work. The presentation makes the case why we need the humanities in ongoing debates over environmental issues.
In the fall of 2022, Frank Uekötter recorded weekly videos on key issues of our research group. These videos paired with the MaMoGH reading group, where we discussed a key book in the field each week. Topics include commodity chains, global and regional approaches, capitalism and industrial ideals, the mystery of taste, organic and socialist alternatives, etc. These videos provide an idea of the breadth of topics covered by the research project, and they serve as reflections on the state of our discussions. You can see our evolving working arguments - and you can see that food history is one of the most exciting and dynamic fields in today's historical profession. We hope that you get a taste for it!
Making Food History
This video explains why food history is such a dynamic area of study and how the MaMoGH project approaches the history of food from a new angle in hopes of making it resonate with the experiences of the 21stCentury world.
“Growth! Growth! Growth!” – Making Food History
Sentences that you think you will never write: This video was inspired by Liz Truss, the prime minister of the United Kingdom at the time of recording. Ms. Truss had pledged to fight an “anti-growth coalition”, and I took this as a cue for a discussion of the quest for growth in food history. Little did I know that soon after this video went online, a British newspaper would speculate whether her remaining tenure would outlast the shelf life of an iceberg lettuce. Truss resigned on 20 October 2022. But growth is still an issue in food history.
A Material History of Coca-Cola
Using Bartow Elmore’s Citizen Coke: The Making of Coca-Cola Capitalism, this video discusses why the Coca-Cola company has been so successful despite its decision to eschew vertical integration in favor of a strategy of limited control over resources flows.
We Need To Talk About (War) Capitalism
This video was inspired by Sven Beckert’s “Empire of Cotton: A Global History,” which uses a global perspective to show how cotton plantations in the Americas represented a clear departure from earlier cotton cultivation. This transformation was achieved through military and colonial power, the implementation of land titles, and the wide-spread use of slavery. While accepting the book’s argument that capitalism survives through practice (daily behaviours), the video argues that greater attention to the ecology of cotton production would illustrate the ways in which capitalism wrestles with crises on multiple fronts and survives because of its ever-changing nature.
Industrial Ideal vs. Agricultural Reality
First published in 2003, Deborah Fitzgerald’s “Every Farm a Factory” focuses on the rise of industrial farming that occurred in the US in the 1920s, seeing the emergence of corporate farms as evidence of a new way of doing business, involving new actors and new ways of thinking. The book remains compelling almost 20 years later, but the video argues that while the push to industrialization emerged during a time of crisis, high tech solutions failed to remove biology from the equation at the same time that they created a rallying point of different groups of people with differing goals.
Why Are Florida’s Oranges Green (And Other Citrus Mysteries)?
This video provides a glimpse at Frank Uekötter’s case study on Florida citrus. It was recorded in a citrus grove near Orlando in November 2022. Insert your own comments about the sacrifices of fieldwork.
A Sense of Taste
Is taste more than a sociocultural waste heap where all the contradictions of our modern foodways pile up? The video discusses Camille Bégin’s “Taste of the Nation” and gives a nod to Pierre Bourdieu’s “Distinction” in an effort to make sense of taste. Or as much sense as the topic allows.
Let the Animals In
The word monoculture evoke images of plants, but factory farming shows many of the features that we talk about in our research group. Departing from Thomas Fleischman’s book “Communist Pigs”, the video reflects on the issues in play when you move the study of monoculture beyond the familiar terrain.
Let’s Go Organic
With all the misery in the world of monoculture, it is tempting to view organic farming as the glowing alternative. Inspired by a group discussion on Brian Obach’s “Organic Struggle”, this video aims for a balanced assessment of the organic farming movement. It is not a panacea, the end of all farming woes of the modern era. But if we did not have organic, we would probably need to invent it.