chapter  4
29 Pages

Purifying milk: Knowledge, sanitation and discipline

The previous chapter focussed predominantly upon the transformations of dairying and the emergence of the modern dairy industry in the quartercentury following the cattle plague of 1865. It also introduced an argument concerning the ontological significance of tuberculosis as a zoonotic disease transmissible through dairy milk. This chapter picks up these threads and deepens some of these arguments by developing a more localized analysis of the development of milk testing and inspection, and by looking more closely at the struggle against milk-borne tuberculosis which took place during the period of 1890-1920. In terms of its historical argument, this chapter posits a shift in the rationale of sanitary discourse and practice and suggests that this was bound up with a wider shift in the mode of realization of humanist discourse. I identify the city as critical in this shift, particularly in terms of a changing spatial imaginary of the city in relation to the country, which was inscribed within urban sanitary discourse and organization. In my understanding of the changes which were occurring in the city at this time I am indebted to Patrick Joyce’s analysis of the transition from ‘the sanitary city’ to ‘the social city’ in the late nineteenth century. He argues that there was a shift from a medicalized view of the city to a social, and indeed a cultural, one:

The social in this view of the city became sui generis, something with its own laws of what was called ‘society’, a particular sort of reality to be known by social science. The ‘social’ was now itself to do the explanatory work. Certain things came to be known to this science as ‘social’ things, and therefore different from anything else.