Posted on June 28, 2024

Experts Are Asking Whether Milk Is Racist as Part of a Tax-Payer Funded Research Project

Vanessa Allen, Daily Mail, June 23, 2024

A taxpayer-funded project is set to research connections between milk and colonialism, it was revealed yesterday.

Academics at an Oxford museum will research the ‘political nature’ of milk and its ‘colonial legacies’.

One of the experts involved has previously argued that milk is a ‘Northern European obsession’ that has been imposed on other parts of the world.

Dr Johanna Zetterstrom-Sharp said the assumption that milk was a key part of the human diet ‘may be understood as a white supremacist one’, as many populations outside Europe and North America have high levels of lactose intolerance in adulthood.

The new project, ‘Milking it: colonialism, heritage & everyday engagement with dairy’, has won funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The council itself is funded by the Government through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, and awards around £110million to researchers at universities and independent organisations.

The milk project will be based at the History of Science Museum in Oxford, which announced it had received funding. The size of the grant has not yet been revealed.

The museum said: ‘By focusing on communities intersecting industry, aid and government regulation, the project aims to centre on heritage as a vital framework for understanding how colonial legacies influence contemporary issues and affect people’s lives.

‘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.

‘The project will question both the imagined and real aspects of milk, revealing the intimate and political nature of this everyday substance.’

Dr Zetterstrom-Sharp, a University College London associate professor at the Institute of Archaeology, and Dr JC Niala, head of research at the History of Science Museum.

Dr Zetterstrom-Sharp took part in a talk titled Milk and Whiteness during a Wellcome Trust exhibition on milk in 2022.

In the panel discussion, she said a ‘Northern European obsession with milk’ had led to the assumption that it was a vital part of any human diet, and should be produced and provided on a vast scale.

The Wellcome Trust exhibition highlighted the imposition of dairy economies by colonial powers, including in regions where populations had high levels of lactose intolerance.

Dr Zetterstrom-Sharp also highlighted issues with the way local milk production in Africa may have been quashed in favour of industrial methods aimed at producing greater volume, and how milk has been distributed by aid organisations.