Heather Paxson is an associate professor of anthropology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she holds the Class of 1957 Career Development Chair. She is interested in how people grapple with shifting socioeconomic conditions and new bioscientific knowledge through ethically meaningful everyday practices, especially those having to do with family and food.
During the fellowship year, Paxson will write a book offering an anthropological account of the current renaissance in artisan cheese making in the United States. Using ethnographic research on dairy farms and in artisan creameries, she will track the social, symbolic, and material life of handcrafted cheese from pasture to palate, a trajectory that reveals how rural entrepreneurs negotiate principle and pragmatism as they develop alternatives to an industrialized food system.
Paxson is the author of Making Modern Mothers: Ethics and Family Planning in Urban Greece (University of California Press, 2004), which details how new consumerism and the use of reproductive technologies generate ambivalence in contemporary Greek moral evaluations of the means and motives of birthing (or avoiding having) children. She earned her PhD in anthropology from Stanford University, and her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.