Sylvester Graham's Imperial Dietetics
kyla wazana tompkins

Abstract

In ““Bodies Made of Bread”” I theorize eating as an intimate site through which power, in particular, the power that upheld the nineteenth-century United States' investment in imperial rhetoric and action, was both instantiated and undermined. Using the dietetic writings of nineteenth-century reformer and anti-masturbation campaigner Sylvester Graham, I assess the body politics that lurk behind the highly socialized but insistently naturalized act of eating. Eating in Graham's work is a quotidian act through which fictions of racial and gendered embodiment are upheld; through comparison to South Pacific islanders and other European colonists, Graham imagines an ideal American-ness which is founded upon the imperial fantasy of Euro-American indigeneity and regulated through the daily consumption of wheat and other ““farinaceous”” foods.

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