Welcome to my newsletter, The Strong Paw of Reason. I’m Gabriel Rosenberg. You may also know me by my twitter handle Bearistotle. Like the Bearistotle of the cartoon above, I am large, furry, opinionated, and sometimes—particularly when roused to anger—fierce. (Unlike the Bearistotle above, I have a reasonably solid grip on the mechanics of deductive logic.)
The purpose of this newsletter is, first and foremost, to provide a venue for me to “think out loud” in text at greater length than I do on twitter and to give you a chance to read it. I like both the accountability and engagement that comes with writing for a public, which is one of the things I enjoy about twitter. If this newsletter proves even modestly popular, I look forward to being corrected by people who read what I write and find it to be in error.
If you’re familiar with my twitter feed, you can reasonably predict that I will probably write often about the history of food systems, environment, agriculture, science, and technology; philosophy; animals; environmentalism and vegetarianism; American electoral politics; higher education; gay culture; kettlebells and weightlifting; and techno. But that’s really just the start. I expect to write about whatever interests me enough to write, and that could really be anything.
Professionally, I teach in Duke University’s Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies and I hold a PhD in history. My scholarship focused on the tangles of food, sex, and animals in American history. At the moment, I’m a fellow at the National Humanities Center and I have a more longterm relationship with the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science as a visiting scholar. I’ll post something longer explaining my scholarship in the coming weeks, but, for now, I’ll stipulate that I’m primarily interested in how agriculture relates to and ultimately conditions important categories of human difference that people usually assume to be unrelated to agriculture: race, gender, and sexuality. More concretely, the book I’m currently writing is about the historical relationships between livestock breeding and human race science. It’s called Purebred: Making Meat and Eugenics in Modern America.
If you’d like a taste of where my analysis can lead, I recommend this recent article I co-authored for The New Republic on how advances in industrial animal agriculture have required the transformation of American sex laws. (That article draws from research I published in a longer essay in GLQ, titled, “How Meat Changed Sex.”) Alternatively, you might check out this delightful and creative take on my research about early twentieth century “scrub bull trials” from the podcast The Memory Palace (it also appeared on Radiolab).
A final word of introduction: because of my twitter nom de guerre, random twitter people often assume that I identify as a bear, the category (and culture) of gay men who are older, large, and hairy. This is a mistake. I’m neither large enough, nor old enough, nor, frankly, interested enough in bear culture to identify as a bear. (Gay) bears are great! But I ain’t one. Rather, I identify with the members of ursidae, the animals. The with here is important. Again, it isn’t an as. I’m not a furry, nor am I an otherkin. They’re also great! But the main thing to understand about me in relation to bears is that I love blueberries, honey, and salmon, that I am a very deep sleeper, and that people in my life frequently comment on my gruff but gregarious ursine personality. I don’t know how much of the blueberries, honey, and salmon will be in the newsletter, but I can promise a steady diet of the gruff but gregarious. Welcome!
In the meantime, tell your friends!