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Scholars to study milk’s ties to ‘colonialism’ in tax-funded project

Professor links dairy product to white supremacy

This one doesn’t appear to be a hoax.

A new research project, “Milking it: colonialism, heritage and everyday engagement with dairy,” comes out of the University of Oxford’s History of Science Museum.

Leading the project are JC Niala, head researcher of the museum, and Johanna Zetterström Sharp, associate professor of archaeology at the University College London, according to an announcement on the museum’s Facebook page.

Their goal is to “examine the milk-related collections of the History of Science Museum to understand scientific knowledge production and the impact of colonial legacies on contemporary issues,” the announcement states.

“Through milk diaries, archival research, and participatory podcasting, it will investigate historical engagement with milk, building networks with consumers and producers in Britain and Kenya,” it states.

Niala and Sharp “will question both the imagined and real aspects of milk,” including the “political nature of this everyday substance,” according to the announcement.

The research project is new, and it’s taxpayer funded through the British Arts and Humanities Research Council, The Telegraph reports.

But the topic is not new to either scholar.

In 2022, Sharp participated in a panel discussion on the topic of “Milk and Whiteness” hosted by the Wellcome Collection in London. The event “explor[ed] milk’s associations with purity and whiteness and the racialised politics of diet and nutrition,” according to the collection website.

The Telegraph reports more:

In the panel discussion, the professor outlined a “Northern European obsession with milk” which has led to an assumption that it is a “vital part of any human diet”, and should be produced and provided on a vast scale.

Such an assumption, she argued, “may be understood as a white supremacist one”.

She explained: “Northern European needs and the science the technology devised to address them are the needs that pertain and are most important for global majority populations.”

Additionally, Niala lists “milk” as a key subject of her research work in her biography on the museum website.

For their new project, “the ultimate goal is to develop new methodologies for investigating our relationship with milk over time” and to “learn from the histories and global forces shaping milk today to envision more sustainable futures,” according to the museum.

Milk, coffee, and racism were the subject of a student’s hoax research essay in 2021.

As The College Fix reported at the time, the Swedish university student wrote about “how the marketing of the coffee has been characterized by highlighting ‘black and exotic elements’ of the drink. When it comes to milk, it has instead been ‘the local and white’ that has been emphasized.”

Arvid Haag said he wrote the paper as a joke for a class about critical race theory, and was surprised when people took it seriously.

MORE: Student receives praise for bogus paper on how milk is a ‘colonizer’ of coffee

IMAGE: Jo Panuwat D/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Micaiah Bilger is an assistant editor at The College Fix.