Milky Appetites: The Foods that Make Us Human


  • Athia N. Choudhury Duke University



critical foods studies, disability studies, fat studies, healthism, feminist science studies, militarism, Asian American/diaspora studies, affect theory, settler colonialism, eugenics, body surveillance


This article follows American milk powder through its many iterations and afterlives: as domestic health food, militarized technology in Asia and its diaspora, and as a symbol of modern health on a global stage. What intimacies of empire might we find by following the shifting sentiments around powdered/skimmed milk consumption? Moreover, how does sifting through this minor history allow us to interrogate the politics of body sovereignty and surveillance as it is scaled transnationally. This article argues that an appetite for dairy was encouraged through various national public sensing projects that made eugenics principles accessible for ordinary audiences as an embodied science of the home. Analyzing the military and weight-loss circuits of powdered/skim demonstrates how government agencies, corporations, medical practitioners, home economists, and other public health workers conjured images of healthy nations and abled-citizens through dairy consumption---often targeting women, children, and racialized subjects as sites of reform through weight management. Bodies that were seen as undesirable–whether too fat or too thin, too sick or too feeble–could be fixed by reforming the appetite. Reading mid-20th century dietetics, U.S. Department of Agriculture archives, and Asian diasporic literature on dairy production and consumption, the case studies in this article elucidate how U.S.-led food literacy and foreign aid campaigns, bolstered by wartime experiments, sought to expand U.S. imperial soft power through wellness technologies. “Milky Appetites” offers a study of desire for national and individual health and wellness as structures of imperialism felt on the body.




How to Cite

Choudhury, A. N. (2023). Milky Appetites: The Foods that Make Us Human. Disability Studies Quarterly, 43(1).



Section I: Reorientations