New book: AMERICAN DISGUST: Racism, Microbial Medicine, and the Colony Within (By Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer)

AMERICAN DISGUST: Racism, Microbial Medicine, and the Colony Within

By Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer

University of Minnesota Press | 304 pages | May 14, 2024

ISBN 978-1-5179-1624-4 | Paperback | $29.00

American Disgust shows how perceptions of disgust and fears of contamination are rooted in the country’s history of colonialism and racism. Drawing on colonial, corporate, and medical archives, Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer argues that microbial medicine is closely entwined with changing cultural experiences of digestion, excrement, and disgust that are inextricably tied to the creation of whiteness.

At its core, American Disgust wrestles with how changing cultural notions of digestion—what goes into the body and what comes out of it—create and impose racial categories motivated by feelings of disgust rooted in American settler-colonial racism. It shows how disgust is a changing, yet fundamental, aspect of American subjectivity and that engaging with it—personally, politically, and theoretically—opens up possibilities for conceptualizing health at the individual, societal, and planetary levels.



“Stealthily, Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer preys on his readers’ own fascination with abject substances to draw us into a conceptually complex rendering of previously unexplored connections between disgust, racialization, and microbial processes and substances. Grounded in wide-ranging examples, drawn from both experience and key texts, the result is riveting.” —Julie Guthman, author of The Problem with Solutions: Why Silicon Valley Can't Hack the Future of Food

"American Disgust pushes readers to think beyond individual taste to consider how whiteness shapes what is acceptable or profane and how to grow our capacity for the unfamiliar. It is a refreshing take on a long-debated concept."—Ashanté M. Reese, coeditor of Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice


Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer is professor of science and technology studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic University. He is author of The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine, and Modern American Life; Theory for the World to Come: Speculative Fiction and Apocalyptic Anthropology; and Unraveling: Remaking Personhood in a Neurodiverse Age (all from Minnesota).

For more information, visit the book's webpage: 

Published: 02/09/2024