Maghrib in Past & Present | Podcasts

Bread and Circuits: Illness, Food, and the Course of Empire in Algeria

February 11, 2021

Episode 109: Bread and Circuits: Illness, Food, and the Course of Empire in Algeria

In the midst of ongoing drought, famine, and epidemic disease in the 1860s, a few settlers in Algiers got sick with a mysterious illness. Investigations determined that the culprit was construction debris from the Haussmannization of Paris, shipped across imperial channels and then used as fuel in a few Algiers bakeries. Lead pain become poison in loaves as this material combusted in colonial bread ovens. The modernization of the imperial metropole, that is, turned into toxic debris in the colony. In this podcast, Dr. Brock Cutler takes a look at how this story about poisoned bread can expose the filaments that tied together an imperial space in the western Mediterranean, along the way illuminating the role bread played in performances of modern imperialism.

Dr. Brock Cutler is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Radford University. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters dealing with ecology and history in North Africa. His forthcoming book, "Crisis Ecologies: Imperialism, Death, and Debris in Algeria," centered around a massive ecological disaster in which 800,000 Algerians died between 1865 and 1872, explores how the new eco-social dynamics in the late nineteenth century cleaved societies from environments and people from society, creating the new insides and outsides of modernity and imperialism.

This episode is part of “Health and Humanities in the Maghrib” a lecture series by the American Institute for Maghrib Studies (AIMS), organized by the Centre d'Études Maghrébines à Tunis (CEMAT) and the Centre d'Études Maghrébines en Algérie (CEMA), in close collaboration with the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM). It was recorded on the 15th of October 2020 between Oran, Radford (VA), St. Petersburg (FL) and Tunis. Dr. Adam Guerin, Associate Professor in the Department of History at Eckerd College, moderated the lecture and debate.

To see related slides visit our web site

We thank Dr. Jonathan Glasser, Cultural Anthropologist at the College of William & Mary for his istikhbar in sika on viola for the introduction and conclusion of this podcast.
Realization and editing:  Hayet Lansari, Librarian, Outreach Coordinator, Content Curator (CEMA).

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