Columbia University in the City of New York
Tyler Adkins
Mellon Teaching Fellow at the Harriman Institute and Lecturer in Anthropology

Tyler Adkins is a sociocultural anthropologist studying the social and aesthetic life of fermentation. His ongoing research examines bioarchives of fermentation in the Indigenous pastoralist communities of Siberia’s Altai Republic. Dairy—and fermented dairy in particular— is a cornerstone of the foodways and ritual practices of the Turkic-speaking Altai people. The production of fermented dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and milk-vodka depends on the acquisition and maintenance of a “starter” of yeast and bacteria, which is preserved within pastoralist households for generations. These starters are preserved not only from season to season but also from generation to generation. This microbial archive fixes, transmits, and makes sensible a gustatory history, and, through the commingling of fermentative strains, materializes a history of a village’s being-together: the shared meals, wedding feasts, and shared utensils that commingle household strains into a resiliently diverse library of potential fermenters. This living archive entails its own forms of memory work. While the practices and politics of memory in post-socialist Eurasia have been frequent objects of academic scrutiny,  Dr. Adkins’ work seeks to reframe fermentation itself as a practice of commemoration while also drawing on the theoretical insights of environmental history and media theory to question the definition of the archival itself.

Dr. Adkins received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Princeton University in 2022. His work has been supported by the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, the Fulbright-Hays DDRA Fellowship, and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Cohen-Tucker Dissertation Research Fellowship. His broader writing, research, and teaching interests include food studies, multispecies ethnography, and the environmental humanities.

Tyler Adkins is a sociocultural anthropologist studying the social and aesthetic life of fermentation. His ongoing research examines bioarchives of fermentation in the Indigenous pastoralist communities of Siberia’s Altai Republic. Dairy—and fermented dairy in particular— is a cornerstone of the foodways and ritual practices of the Turkic-speaking Altai people. The production of fermented dairy products like yogurt, cheese, and milk-vodka depends on the acquisition and maintenance of a “starter” of yeast and bacteria, which is preserved within pastoralist households for generations. These starters are preserved not only from season to season but also from generation to generation. This microbial archive fixes, transmits, and makes sensible a gustatory history, and, through the commingling of fermentative strains, materializes a history of a village’s being-together: the shared meals, wedding feasts, and shared utensils that commingle household strains into a resiliently diverse library of potential fermenters. This living archive entails its own forms of memory work. While the practices and politics of memory in post-socialist Eurasia have been frequent objects of academic scrutiny,  Dr. Adkins’ work seeks to reframe fermentation itself as a practice of commemoration while also drawing on the theoretical insights of environmental history and media theory to question the definition of the archival itself.

Dr. Adkins received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from Princeton University in 2022. His work has been supported by the Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, the Fulbright-Hays DDRA Fellowship, and the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies Cohen-Tucker Dissertation Research Fellowship. His broader writing, research, and teaching interests include food studies, multispecies ethnography, and the environmental humanities.

Contact Info

12th Floor East International Affairs Building

   ta2722@columbia.edu
   212 854-4623
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