Current Research

My current project stems from my dissertation, Consuming the South: Representations of Taste, Place, and Agriculture, which emerged out of research on the ways that representations of agriculture have promoted produce and place in and beyond the American South since the late-nineteenth century. 

Examining advertisements, art, events, and objects surrounding North Carolina tobacco, Virginia peanuts, Florida oranges, and South Carolina rice, I explore how various stakeholders and communities constructed ideas of the region through its agricultural products. Within the project, I conceptualize "multisensory terroir" to examine the ways that representations encourage purchasers to both physically and culturally consume southern products. In so doing, I expand on the ways that terroir (a French term for taste of place, often used in relation to food and wine) offers a framework for understanding the experienced and imagined sensory qualities of representations of food as imagined proxies for place. By reconstructing how companies packaged their products for national buyers, my project strengthens the existing scholarship on foodways that focuses on visual and material culture. I also consider the localized lives of these products, examining how southerners creatively contributed to and contested the meanings associated with agricultural representations. Ultimately, I argue that southern agriculturally based promotional and commemorative processes revolved and, importantly, continue to revolve around the consumption of place itself. 
A gray billboard sits upon a beige and white Italianate building. The sign has a black and white graphic of a bull on the right, and has red neon lighting that reads "OLD BULL"
A figure walks down a street wearing a top top, a peanut-shaped costume covering their face and torso, and holding a cane - they are dressed like "Mr. Peanut." To their right is a truck featuring a McDonald's advertisement with Ronald McDonald.
A sign in front of a snack stand window reads "Sunshine Tree Terrace" in orange text and shows the "Orange Bird" - a character with a citrus orange for a head and green leaves for wings.
Fabric bags of rice are stacked on a display shelf. The bags on the right and left are white with green font, and the bags in the center are yellow with green font. The middle bags are of "Charleston Gold Rice."
Top left: American Tobacco Campus apartments in Durham, NC, January 2020.
Bottom left: A costumed Mr. Peanut at the Virginia Annual Peanut Festival in Emporia, VA, September 2015.
Top right: The Sunshine Tree Terrace at Walt Disney World, 2019.
Bottom right: "Charleston Gold Rice" at the City Market in Charleston, SC, February 2019.
All photos by Rachel C. Kirby.

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