Sunday, 22 April 2007

Boundaries and bodies

A series of short posts today, I think: I'm spending the day re-planning the book's structure and argument, and figuring out how best to structure the next few working weeks in the light of that, so it's sort of bitty work requiring frequent pauses to let things sink in.

On Wednesday I gave a paper at Melbourne Uni (on which more later), and in the discussion period afterwards interesting things were mentioned about Orthodox Jewish boundary practices, which made me think vague thoughts about keeping kosher, the boundary of the body, the boundary of the people, and so on. Then on Sunday, I went to Treats From Home, a little shop in the centre of Melbourne which sells things that British people might miss, and discovered that it sells food, drink, and... cleaning products. Specifically, cleaning products for clothes and dishes (Persil, Ariel, Bold and Fairy Liquid). Isn't that interesting? It's the conflation of national and corporate identity, via branding, and the way that reaches right into the way we experience our bodies; what we hunger for; what we're happy to put into our bodies, or onto them. Somehow my sudden fierce desire for Monster Munch - which I never eat in the UK - seems less innocent when you put the Monster Munch next to the Fairy Liquid: the nationalization of cleanliness and edibility (is that a word?), of drawing a distinction between the clean and the dirty, the edible and the non-edible, 'proper' crisps and 'this nasty foreign muck'. Washing the dirt, the that-which-is-not-me, down the sink with those airy Fairy suds, or that Aerial foam. It goes all the way back to soap advertising and the British Empire (this is all in Anne McClintock's Imperial Leather, which is one of those books everyone should read, twice) we maintain our bodies as British bodies abroad through reiterated rituals of cleaning and eating, performed by and through branded technologies.

None of which stopped me buying sixteen packets of Walker's crisps, some jelly babies and a jar of Haywards pickled onions, of course. Ooh, actually I fancy a jelly baby...

No comments: