Susanne Freidberg

Professor of Geography
Academic Appointments

Professor of Geography
Ecology, Evolution, Ecosystems and Society Graduate Program

As a geographer, my work spans the fields of political ecology, cultural economy and science and technology studies (STS). Much of my research has centered on food supply chains in and between different parts of the world. Although different projects have focused on different geographic regions and scales, one of my enduring concerns lies in the expert knowledge and social relations that get food from farm to market.  I am especially interested in the work, technology and politics involved in defining and assuring certain qualities in food and agriculture, such as fresh, fair and sustainable. In recent research projects, for instance, I have studied contemporary debates about how best to measure food’s environmental footprint, as well as the ongoing efforts of large food companies to assess and improve the sustainability of farms supplying their raw materials.

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My past projects have resulted in two books. French Beans and Food Scares: Culture and Commerce in an Anxious Age (Oxford, 2004) compares the "cultures of commerce" of two fresh vegetable trades between Africa (Burkina Faso and Zambia) and Europe (France and Britain). The story is less about food scares per se than about how the relationships and technologies of globalization are culturally and historically constituted. In Fresh: A Perishable History (Harvard, 2009), I trace how the meanings of freshness in food have changed along with the technologies that are supposed to protect it. While much of the book focuses on the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it aims to shed light on today's appetites for this ephemeral food quality.

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Fairchild 016
HB 6017
African and African American Studies
The John Sloan Dickey Center for International Understanding
B.A. Anthropology, Yale University
M.A. Geography, University of California at Berkeley
Ph.D. Geography, University of California at Berkeley

Selected Publications

2019 "'Unable to determine': Limits to metrical governance in agricultural supply chains," Science, Technology and Human Values,

2017 "Trading in the secretive commodity," Economy and Society, 46, 3-4, 499-521.

2017 "Big Food, little data: The slow harvest of corporate food supply chain sustainability initiatives," Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 1-18.

2016 "Wicked nutrition: The controversial greening of official dietary advice." Gastronomica, 16, 2, 69-80

2014 "Footprint technopolitics," Geoforum, 55, 178-189. 

2013. "Calculating sustainability in supply chain capitalism." Economy and Society, 42, 571-96.

2009  Fresh: A Perishable History, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

2010 "Ambiguous appetites: a modern history," Food, Society and Culture, 13, 4, 471-91.

2008 "The triumph of the egg," Comparative Studies in Society and History, 50, 2, 400-23.

2007 "Supermarkets and imperial knowledge," Cultural Geographies, 14, 3, 321-42.

2004 French Beans and Food Scares: Culture and Commerce in an Anxious Age, Oxford.

2004 "The ethical complex of corporate food power." Society and Space, 22, 4, 513-31.

2003 "Cleaning up down South: supermarkets, ethical trade, and African horticulture," Social and Cultural Geography 4, 1, 27-43.

2001 "On the trail of the global green bean: methodological considerations in multi-site ethnography," Global Networks 1, 4, 353-68.

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Speaking engagements

2016, "Contentious Harvest: The Greening of Big Food," Public Humanities Lecture, The Ohio State University, March 24.

2014, "Machine in the Garden: The Making of American Freshness," Mergen-Palmer Endowed Lecture, George Washington University, Washington DC, October 6.

2013, Keynote Address, "The Renaissance of Life Cycle Assessment: A Social Scientist's Perspective," International Conference on Life Cycle Management, Gothenburg, August 26.

2013, Keynote Address, "Moral Economies of the Cold Chain," Anglo-American Conference of Historians on Food in History, London, UK, July 10.

2012, Keynote Address, “The Political Metrics of Food’s Footprint,” World Rural Sociology Congress, Lisbon, Portugal, August 30.