To Eat or Not to Eat? Human Health, Scientific Knowledge, and the Biopolitics of Meat in Eastern Europe, 1860s–1939


The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Project type



The project examines the multiplicity of discourses about healthiness or otherwise of dietary meat, in their genesis and evolvement, and subsequent convergence, in Eastern Europe from the 1860s to 1939. Inspired by theory of biopolitics and modernity, the study employs the concepts of nutritional scientism and mediated biopolitics. Using archival and published sources from the time of the late Russian empire and early Soviet Union, it scrutinizes processes and structures, biopolitical rationalities and technologies, historical events, parties and actors, which brought to life, maintained, legitimized and mediated certain discourses about dietary meat while they contested, suppressed and denied others. It analyses types of knowledge on the health effects of dietary meat, internal disputes of the nutritional field on the matter, and in its interrelationship with other fields and pan-European developments. Applying systematic discourse analysis, the study untangles the ways Russian imperial “meat question” and Soviet “meat problem” evolved, had been framed, dealt with and mediated, and examines their biopolitical manifestations in press and education. The project nuances the theoretical debate on the models of boundary arrangements between politics and science. By its empirical insights, it adds to the theoretical debate on “multiple modernities” in Europe. The project proposes a model for studies of similar research problems across other time periods and geographical locations.

Project information

Research area / geographic area

Historical and Contemporary Studies History CBEES Historical Studies History Europe

Contract ID


Project time

2022 — 2025


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