Research Portfolio | Anthropology 

The Life of Cheese 

Heather Paxson
The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America 
University of California Press, 2012 

An anthropological study of American artisanal cheese and the people who make it. Cheese is alive, and alive with meaning. Heather Paxson’s beautifully written anthropological study of American artisanal cheesemaking tells the story of how craftwork has become a new source of cultural and economic value for producers as well as consumers. Dairy farmers and artisans inhabit a world in which their colleagues and collaborators are a wild cast of characters, including plants, animals, microorganisms, family members, employees, and customers. As “unfinished” commodities, living products whose qualities are not fully settled, handmade cheeses embody a mix of new and old ideas about taste and value. By exploring the life of cheese, Paxson helps rethink the politics of food, land, and labor today.


The Life of Cheese website

University of California Press

Video (1 minute): Paxson on artisan cheese



The Life of Cheese book cover