of Reproduction
Heather Paxson
of Food
Modern Mothers book cover

Making Modern Mothers


Council on Anthropology and Reproduction

CV | Courses

I am a cultural anthropologist at MIT, where I am Class of '57 Career Development Associate Professor. I received my PhD from Stanford University and my BA from Haverford College. I am interested in how people craft a sense of themselves as moral beings in everyday, bodily practices including sex, reproduction, and eating.

I conducted my doctoral research in Athens, Greece, where I investigated the apparent paradox of a child-loving Mediterranean society in which the abortion rate is twice the national birth rate. My book, Making Modern Mothers: Ethics and Family Planning in Urban Greece, argues that Athenian women have incorporated abortion into a moral - indeed, maternal - framework, in which it may be better to interrupt a pregnancy than to raise a child inadequately. But the story is not that simple. Amidst nationalist concern over declining birth rates, the consumption of imported consumer goods and reproductive technologies generates profound ambivalence in Athenians' moral evaluations of abortion, contraception, and in vitro fertilization. At stake are ideas about what it means to be Greek - or more particularly, a Greek woman or man - in the modern world.

Closer to home, my new project furthers my concern with ethics and embodiment: this time my subject is food. After writing on the Slow Food movement for Gastronomica, I have begun studying a 'renaissance' in American artisan cheese production. Farmstead and artisanal cheese provides a ripe opportunity to investigate the legal, moral, and community politics that organize food production, distribution, and eating in the U.S.

MIT Anthropology Program
Room 16-247
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
Wheels of cheese draining

Ethnography of Artisanal Cheesemaking


Vermont Cheese Council

Raw Milk Cheesemakers' Association