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Dartmouth Professor wins Berkshire Conference Award for The Triumph of the Egg article

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 11/11/09 • Media Contact: Latarsha Gatlin (603) 646-3661

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Susanne Freidberg
Susanne Freidberg

Dartmouth College Associate Professor of Geography Susanne Freidberg recently won the prestigious Berkshire Conference Article Prize for 2008, awarded by the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians, for her article The Triumph of the Egg.

Published last year in Comparative Studies in Society and History, The Triumph of the Egg is about why eggs are no longer seasonal, something Freidberg learned while doing research for her book, Fresh: A Perishable History.

“Then I discovered that not many people seemed to know either that eggs ever were seasonal or that past generations used to store them for several months at a time--without refrigeration. This was intriguing in itself, but what was really interesting was how the innovations that brought about the year-round fresh egg, for better or worse, were driven partly by public distrust of refrigeration. A century ago many people considered it an unsafe and immoral technology.”

The article examines the development, suspicion and eventual acceptance of industrial refrigeration in the United States, and what impact the demand for year-round fresh eggs had on hens.

The Berkshire Conference Article Prize is awarded annually for an article in any field of history by a woman who is normally resident in North America.

“It was a complete surprise to win, but a pleasant one. The research I did for Triumph of the Egg was fascinating, at least to me. But when writing it up I was never entirely sure whether it would pass muster with historians,” she said.

Earlier this year, Freidberg was awarded both the Mellon New Directions Fellowship from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies.

Freidberg’s second book, Fresh: A Perishable History was published in April 2009 by Harvard University Press. It traces the changing meanings of freshness in food, particularly since the late 19th century advent of refrigeration and improved transportation. Freidberg’s first book examined freshness from a different perspective. French Beans and Food Scares: Culture and Commerce in an Anxious Age (Oxford 2004) compared two postcolonial fresh vegetable trades between Africa and Europe and traced the far-reaching, culturally distinctive effects of European “food fears” on production and exchange relations.

Freidberg said she hopes her win highlights for students the crossroads between interdisciplinary research and theory in one’s study.

“The disciplinary boundary between history and geography has always been pretty fuzzy. Often the biggest challenge isn't doing the research but communicating it in a way that makes sense across the disciplines. Many students are understandably not too fond of abstract theoretical texts on, say, the rise of industrial capitalism. But theory is like a flashlight--it helps you see things you otherwise wouldn't, and explore places you otherwise wouldn't go. It certainly helped me see the story inside the egg.”

Freidberg came to Dartmouth in 1998. She has a B.A. in anthropology from Yale and a Ph.D. in geography from the University of California, Berkeley.

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