The Public Domain Review

Addendum: Abstracts for HIS595 / FUT595 Syllabus

Bergman, Allison. “Quarantine Blues: Extraversion and Contentment in Isolation During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Information & Human Behavior 14 (2021): 14–35.

The quarantine enacted between March of 2020 and February of 2021 initiated a multi-valent global cultural shift. The transformations of restaurant dining, dating, and virtual work were indisputable, but the persistence of these shifts in socialization remains to be seen. In this longitudinal study, participants from ages 18–55 were surveyed about their quarantine situation, level of contentment with their situation, perceived identity as introvert/extrovert, and feelings of loneliness. Follow-ups were conducted after three and six months, and one year later with a final survey on post-quarantine social habits. Results indicated that self-identified introverts were most likely to express contentment with their situation in quarantine and to continue isolationist or virtual social patterns in post-quarantine life.

Brenner, Charles. “Everything but the Kitchen Sink: Big Culinary Tech’s Takeover of American Food Culture,” The Journal of American Food History, 2061.

At the inception of COVID-19, there was a marked departure among historians of science away from arguments about the power of technological innovations or those carrying any whiff of biological determinism. But what is missed by most critical readers of books considered determinist is how these technologies and their effects can be revolutionary, even while they capitalize on pre-existing social structures. This essay outlines how the “uniqueness” of the pandemic’s influence on food consumption, where it most clearly alerts us to a diversion in the course of food history, comes from the sudden and unprecedented access that tech companies gained to the American kitchen, largely by way of national government subsidies of a revamped microwave oven and similarly overpowered kitchen tech.

Butler, Kiara. “Humans as Virus, Lockdown as Healing: The Nature/Culture Dichotomy and Environmental Narratives During COVID-19.” In Climate Change and the Coronavirus, 87–119. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2024.

The rapid spread of COVID-19 in early 2020 brought with it the proliferation of two sets of analogies: humans as a planetary infection, disease, or virus; and the various ensuing stay-at-home measures as providing the earth an opportunity for rest, recuperation, healing. By tracing the use of these two sets of analogies, this chapter identifies the rhetorical emergence of a medicalized nature/culture dichotomy in the conservationist and corporate-reformist strands of the environmental movement. While many of the reforms that followed were beneficial – placing greater restrictions on exploitation of ‘wild’-life and ‘wild’-lands (particularly ones that hold greater potential for transmitting zoonotic disease to humans), increased adoption of carbon pricing measures, etc. – they fall short of the radical transformation required. Post-structuralist and indigenous critiques of the false nature/culture dichotomy ground this search for a new set of analogies: ones more apt for describing and revealing the intersections of the COVID-19 pandemic and our environmental crises.

Callisto, E. T. Contested Politics of Unknown Worlds. New York: McKibben Press, 2068.

A tenet of Future Studies is that visions of the future are both predictive and generative. Through close readings of supposedly apolitical predictions of geologic research, climate models and weather forecasts, this book presents a multiscalar portrait of the political possibilities under a future transformed by climate change. It suggests that the "world-building models" of the twenty-first century will constitute the most concrete evidence yet of Western science's imperial foundations, and advocates for the "technologies of envisioning" that the author encounters in indigenous folktales, refugee artwork and the make-believe of young children.

Celig, Erin A. “Revising the Revolution: On Radical Togetherness as a Critique of Catastrophism,” Cultural History 51, no. 1 (2062): 36–54.

The scope of historical inquiry on the Remote Revolution has been severely limited by a catastrophist perception of the coronavirus pandemic as a diverting, rather than catalyzing, agent in culinary history (see Patel, 2054). Popular focus on the virtualizing and individualizing impacts of the pandemic has led scholars to overlook instances of what this essay and others have termed “radical togetherness” -- a label encompassing the rise of intentional communities, countercultural embraces of communal dining, and recipe-sharing. This essay compiles research from the last fifty years (see Punarjanma, 2038 as an early exemplar) on these undervalued phenomena to build an argument against a view of the Remote Revolution as an era of uniform and unilateral distancing.

Clancy, W. D. From Sous Chef to Meillassoux: Shifts in Gastronomic Labor During the Remote Revolution. New York: DeVry University Press, 2034.

The Remote Revolution, which in the early 2020s saw the closure of restaurants and an attendant resurgence in home-cooked meals, marked a dramatic shift from the private business to the household, and thus a translocation of the labor of food preparation from a capitalist to a domestic economy. This event evidences the coexistence of disparate modes of production, (which by no means contradicts the tenets of Marxist analysis, as has been demonstrated by Meillasoux, among others). However, this shift in gastronomic production contrasted the productive conditions of society as a whole. In examining the shift of raw-ingredient allocation from wholesale distributors to resale vendors against broader financial flows toward food commodity corporations, this volume suggests that the Remote Revolution’s strengthening of the domestic economy enabled the entrenchment of industrial food production, and thus strengthened a critical locus of capitalist control.

Koffi, Binta. The Lotus and the Spit. London: Octavian Press, 2054.

Promptly hailed as one of the twenty-first century's most imaginative classical revisions, this futuristic Odyssey across West Africa transformed by rising sea-levels follows Octava, a photojournalist, on her journey home from the famine in the high reaches of Sa'Halium. As she travels south toward her home of Mont Tonkuoi in an outboard Zodiac manned by three orphaned children, she encounters strange new civilizations with uncanny echoes of the world she once knew. A modern epic, queer love story and speculative masterpiece, Koffi's "The Lotus and the Spit" is also an urgent meditation on hunger and desire as the organizing forces of human life.

Kruse, Kristoff. “States’ Wrongs: COVID-19’s Legacy of Gubernatorial Scapegoating.” The American Historical Review 128, no. 2 (2023): 47–72.

The COVID-19 pandemic afforded the Trump administration an opportunity to consolidate unprecedented executive power. Beyond Trump's condemnation of gubernatorial pandemic reactions, which ignited unexpected fervor among his supporters, winning him the 2020 election, the crisis saw governors serve as executive scapegoats, a dynamic that persists today. As massive profits went to firms able to capitalize on a quarantined economy (especially in food tech markets), government contracts brought executive bodies under greater corporate control, with an attendant decrease in regulation. Meanwhile, this essay argues, the corporate-interested federal government masqueraded national issues as local failures in order to perpetuate a highly profitable crisis.

LaDérive, Dawn. “Conspicuous Consumption, Homemade!: Food Imagery on Social Media, Before and After COVID-19.” In Debord in the Age of Zoom: Our Remote ‘Society of the Spectacle,’ 220–242. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2023.

Instagram and other platforms have long centered conspicuous consumption, both of branded luxury goods and, by the 2010s, fashionable food items (Taylor, 2018). Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Instagram food posts overwhelmingly captured dining experiences at high-end cafés and restaurants. During and after the pandemic, conspicuous consumption took a different form: food images instead contained “homemade” breads, meals, and desserts. Consuming homemade food acted as a new kind of class marker communicated via displays of one’s facility (in both senses of the word) for cooking. These posts were also virtue signals of the poster’s adherence to stay-at-home orders. This chapter documents how the growth of social media-mediated conspicuous consumption of homemade goods reflects a rise in the pride and prestige attributed to displays of self-sufficiency in upper-middle class Americans.

Lopez, A. G. “Generation Zapped: How College Students Paid for the Microwave Renaissance.” The Journal of American Food History, vol. 6 (2049): 61–84.

Thirty years after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant industry is unrecognizable: Just 5% of nationwide restaurants cling to a badge of social artisanship, offering exclusively table service. This article traces this dramatic shift to the pandemic-era pathway for technology corporations to enter the household at an unprecedented scale, via food technology.

Two key developments that emerged from the pandemic: (1) the rise of cutting-edge autonomous microwave technology and (2) the virtualization of high school and undergraduate education. Microwave innovations by tech conglomerates Amazon, Apple, and Zoom enabled Americans to sustain themselves during the pandemic, but also kept them home after the pandemic’s end. At the same time, the pandemic forced universities to explore alternatives to campus dining, which sparked their dependence on cheap and quick “tech food.” Lonesome ramen supplanted friendly dinners, beginning a 30-year period of unsocial dining.

Marcel, Madeleine. “Tracking Taste, Tracking Tech: Perceptions of Flavor Before and after the Pandemic,” Sensory History, 2049.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research was established to study the effects of the virus on smell and taste. In conjunction with the introduction of the “Taste Tracker”, new areas of thinking developed surrounding humans’ relationship with taste and smell, and by extension their relationship with food. As historians consider the nature of the Remote Revolution, one must return to this “Taste Tracker” technology and consider its effect on how people both related to and understood food during and after the pandemic. This paper explores the impact of the virus and technology on sensory and perceptual experiences of flavour and taste. In assessing these developments, this paper also seeks to explore the dynamics between the emotional appreciation of flavour and scientific understandings of it.

Nuñez, Catalina. Precarious Ethnography and the Social Economies of Collapse. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2028.

This ethnography interrogates the emergent category of "essential workers" in the food and service industry during the COVID-19 pandemic. It examines an informal interpersonal network of gig-workers, medical professionals and service personnel that formed around St. Louis, Missouri's St. Luke's hospital during a months-long supply-chain breakdown. The network was characterized by dynamics of economic interdependence, reciprocal care, and competition. By presenting its interlocutors not as "workers" but as agentive creators of new forms of exchange-based community, this ethnography advocates for a socio-economic framework "from within" which centers the relationships often obscured by the distinctions between economic, medical and interpersonal service work.

Patel, Erik. “Toward a Uniformitarian History of the Remote Revolution,” Social Studies of Science 84, no. 6 (2054): 802–834.

The restaurant closures and shift toward takeout that occurred in response to the coronavirus pandemic altered, but did not eliminate, the practice of group dining. This paper extends the history of virtualized and individualized food consumption by exposing earlier evidence of social and economic shifts that appeared as early as the 1990s. In adopting a critical stance toward the easy assessment that a moment of crisis is a time out of time, one that is categorically discontinuous with the conditions immediately preceding it, this paper characterizes the coronavirus pandemic not as a diversion, but as a catalyst for trends that had been set in motion decades earlier.

Potosi, Pat. Infiltration of the Spectacle: Corporate and State Tech Creep in a Post-Remote Revolution World. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2067.

Many histories of the so-called “Remote Revolution” emphasize the desocializing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and of the ‘socially distanced’ forms of life that emerged in that period. This book argues instead that the focus on the “remote” aspect of this revolution is misplaced, and that it obscures some of the most pernicious trends of the 2020’s and the decades that followed. Not only did COVID-19 bring on an even more digitally interconnected world (and thus, at least in this virtual sense, increasingly less “remote”), but it actually enabled a distinct phenomenon: corporate and state digital technologies’ rapid infiltration into new realms of lived experience.

Punarjanma, Harry. The Rise of the Intentional Community. Mountain View: Google Books Press, 2038.

The COVID-19 pandemic had major ramifications for food production and its labor relations (Clancy, 2034) and compressed international agricultural supply chains into a more regional scale (though they emerged no less controlled by multinational agrochemical corporations as a result). Importantly, however, these shifts were accompanied by a subcultural movement in agricultural production: the beginning of the rapid rise in the popularity of “intentional communities” and other sustainable agricultural lifestyles among highly educated Americans. An examination of the intellectual and cultural lineage of this movement – from the counterculture and back-to-the-land movement of the 1960’s and 70’s, to the alter-globalization and degrowth movements, to an evolving climate change discourse that increasingly decried wealthy industrialized lifestyles, and then finally to the impact of the 2020–21 coronavirus – reveals the recent entry of these communities and modes of living into the mainstream as a reflection of a cultural paradigm shift.

Rayner, Jenna. “Solo Dining: The Decline and Revival of Good Eating? A Case Study of Ichiran”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 2062.

In Gillian Cornaner’s recent (and widely acclaimed) book, Dining Solo: Coronavirus and the Revival of Fine Dining, she argues that the dangers of communal eating in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic introduced an unprecedented wave of “solo dining.” She cites the revolutionary remodeling of the restaurant Nobu in July 2021 and her experience free of the “hustle and bustle of those who care more for the scene than the cuisine.” (Cornaner, 2062, p. 34). But Cornaner omits the early history of solo dining in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In 1993, the Japanese restaurant Ichiran opened its first “taste concentration counter,” a solo dining experience that earned Ichiran global recognition by 2016. Using Ichiran as a case study, this paper charts an extended history of “solo dining,” challenging Cornaner’s presumption that the coronavirus prompted this remodelling.

Recipes of Anticipation, edited by Cariotta Loftus Yong. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2021.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, chefs and food writers came together to think about how the virus changed the present and future of food. The recipes presented here are anticipations of the foods and tastes of a future profoundly impacted by the virus. Basic recipes (for example, one using the entire cauliflower including the stem, by Tom Hunt) anticipate not only the need to minimize food waste, but also the desire to experiment with texture as flavour experiences were compromised. Since the experience of recipes and tastes is one of anticipation, the recipe can be thought of as a point of temporal intersection: one that reveals the past, enhances the present and anticipates the future meal.

Sage, Loren. “The Rise of The Virtual Farm to Table Movement: Reflections on Cow Connect,” Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture 3, no. 3 (2028) 32–56.

Throughout the 21st century, the farm-to-table movement in restaurants reinstated diners’ connection to their food and promoted more sustainable forms of eating. COVID-19’s disruption to both the food chain and the restaurant industry has severed this connection once again. In September 2021, Amazon’s Whole Foods partnered with Joel Salatin’s famous Polyface Farm to establish the app Cow Connect. Before buying meat, users could purchase a specified animal of choice, tracking its life and journey to the table. The aim was to establish a greater connection between individuals and their food, while also supporting smaller, environmentally conscious farms. This paper argues that the major contribution of Cow Connect was to establish a new method of socialising with animals at a time when human interaction seemed increasingly de-socialised.

Stefan, Niko. “Recovering our Tastes: New-found sensory understandings through COVID-19’s symptoms of smell and taste loss,” Journal of Sensory Studies, 2048.

In the early stages of 2020’s COVID-19 epidemic, the loss of smell and taste was confirmed as a key symptom. Understanding one’s taste and smell experience thus became increasingly important. Following a caseload peak in December 2020, a COVID-19 tracker developed by Tim Spector was made mandatory by a number of national governments. Spector's "Taste Tracker" compiled data on the loss of certain flavors, information which proved critical in later pandemic containment efforts.

The "Taste Tracker" has sparked interest in other projects, including the 2022 inauguration of the annual “Dictionary of Flavour," now in its 26th edition. This paper examines the implications of this sensory data and recounts the process by which individuals have become increasingly self-aware of their sensory experience, adapting their food choices as a result.

Tang, Claudia. “Recipes for Communities and Communities of Recipes.” Cultural History 20, no. 1 (2031): 33–51.

The cultural object of the cookbook has undergone countless transformations across millenia. At the turn of the 21st century, the dominant form of the glossy celebrity tome gave way to network-based blogs and the virtual communities which congregated around them. As the quarantine measures enacted during the coronavirus pandemic made home-cooking increasingly common, virtual spaces dedicated to the shared preparation of food proliferated among influencers and professional chefs, and soon spread beyond famous figures. What began as comment threads developed into collaborative and robust blogs and websites.

This paper presents an analysis of these blogs and websites, with a particular focus on those that target specific communities. By considering the practical, literary, and sociological dimensions of these spaces, the paper suggests that these blogs can be seen as “recipes” for community building during a time when in-person communities were few and far between.

Vulpes, Julia. “Meal-Taking on the Camelback Commune.” In Cult of Connection: Intentional Living Communities in a Post-Pandemic World, 241–317. Providence: Brown University Press, 2045.

Excerpted from a 2045 review in The New York Times, which specifically addresses our assigned chapter:
"...Vulpes’ study of the Camelback commune (est. 2026) is arguably her most memorable contribution. She lived on-site for almost 6 months in the Camelback community to document its peculiar focus on communal meals: Camelback modeled old ascetic practices via twice-daily silent meal-taking as a group (1,000+ people at once) and once-a-day evening meals of the same form that allowed for conversation. When surveyed about their primary motivations for joining the commune, members largely cited concern for rising global temperatures and environmental degradation and as a result, practiced sustainable farming and environmentally friendly living. Despite these motivations, Vulpes argues that Camelback’s largest focus was on the social groups they delicately managed through a system of seating randomization during most meals and a strong emphasis on intimate, meaningful interactions through the shared experiences of production and consumption.”

Weisberg, Anya. “In Food We Trust—But Should We?: A study of the post-COVID-19 food trade deals.” Policy and Science 4, no. 1 (2026): 27–54.

In his December 2019 election victory speech Boris Johnson promised to make Britain the “cleanest, greenest [country] on earth, with the most far-reaching environmental programme.” His declaration came as concerns were raised about a post-Brexit Britain that would no longer be subject to European regulations protecting food safety and the environment. In Britain’s trade deal negotiations with the USA, talk of climate change and crisis was ruled out. The UK-USA trade deal continued throughout the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as debate swelled surrounding food security. Rumours that Britain would relax food safety and environmental standards created opposition to the trade deal that the British government defended as necessary during times of pandemic-induced trade and food insecurity. Using the 2020 UK-USA trade deal negotiations as a starting point, this paper discusses the ways in which policies and planning procedures negotiated food insecurity and environmental concerns invoked and augmented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wells, H.G. “The Discovery of the Future.” Nature 65 (1902): 326–331.

H.G. Wells’ Discovery of the Future is an early manifesto of future-oriented thought. As he examines the role of history in informing the present, Wells considers how consistent our understandings can be. He uses the example of scientific discoveries that overturned previous historic conceptions of the beginning of the universe, suggesting that an “inductive knowledge...of the future is becoming a human possibility.” Turning to scientific fields he suggests that medical diagnoses and applied mathematics yield forecasts, and therefore engage in an analytical form of future inquiry. Wells also addresses morality, pointing out that knowledge of the future will “be no sort of knowledge that will either hamper us in the exercise of our individual free will or relieve us of personal responsibility.” To conclude, Wells suggests a series of “conceivable” futures that include diseases.