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Milking Economies: Multi-species Imbrications in the Infant Formula Industry

Milking Economies: Multi-species Imbrications in the Infant Formula Industry

Event Venue:

Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation‚ Deakin University 221 Burwood HighwayBurwood, VIC, 3125, Australia ( Map )

A seminar from the Deakin Critical Animal Studies Network, with Claudia Towne Hirtenfelder and Carolyn Prouse (Queen’s University of Kingston, Canada)


In 2016 the Chinese infant formula company Feihe International signed a deal with the Canadian Dairy Commission (CDC) to invest $225 million in the Canadian dairy market. Feihe has since built a plant in Kingston, Ontario, to process Canadian cows’ and goats’ milk for infant formula. We draw on this case study to unpack some of the multispecies entanglements that underpin transnational markets in dairy-based infant formula. We use a postcolonial, posthumanist analytic to show how cows, goats and humans are entangled through the pursuit of for-profit markets in infant formula. Methodologically, we imbricate different sets of entanglements that underpin this milk economy: entanglements of purity circulating race, nation, and species with entanglements of motherhood circulating science, technology, and branding. Our method involves analyzing official correspondence between CDC, Feihe, and Kingston; market reports for the dairy, goat, and infant formula industries; and news articles about the Feihe infant formula plant. We read these empirics through literature in animal studies, geography, posthumanism, and postcolonial studies. In so doing, we unmask and de-fetishize infant formula,showing some of the messy, multispecies entanglements and social relations that shape transnational dairy industries.

Claudia (Towne) Hirtenfelder is a PhD Candidate in Geography at Queen’s University. Her work aims to understand how cows have historically been removed from cities and what this could tell us about processes of urbanisation as well as animal subjectivities. Claudia has an MSc in the Social Studies of Gender from Lund University as well as an MA in Tourism, BA(Hons) in Political Science, and BA in Journalism from the University of Johannesburg. Claudia is also the host of The Animal Turn Podcast, a podcast exploring important concepts in animal studies. You can find her on Twitter (@ClaudiaFTowne).

Carolyn Prouse is an Assistant Professor and Queen’s National Scholar at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. She is a decolonial urbanist working at the intersection of postcolonial studies, critical race feminism, social reproduction theory, and decolonial praxis. Her recent projects include understanding community negotiations of slum-upgrading projects in the Global South; theorizing new markets in human milk selling and sharing across the globe; and analyzing urban biosecurity interventions managing the human/animal interface.


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