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Fridge space : journeys of the domestic refrigerator Watkins, Helen 2008

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FRIDGE SPACE: JOURNEYS OF THE DOMESTIC REFRIGERATOR by  HELEN WATKINS  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Geography) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA (Vancouver) June 2008  © Helen Watkins, 2008  ABSTRACT My dissertation emerges from a curiosity about the mundane objects and machines with which we live and it pauses in Britain’s kitchens to ask what we might learn from looking in the fridge. Considered by many to be a rather ordinary and unremarkable appliance, the refrigerator forms a virtually ubiquitous backdrop to routine activities of feeding, provisioning and storing, but rarely is it brought into explicit focus. This study traces the ‘career’ of the mechanical refrigerator and is based upon interviews and archival work in Britain. I unravel intersecting histories and geographies of cooling, discuss a global trade in ice, explore changing understanding of the nature of heat and cold and show how varied ideas and technologies contributed to achieving the creation of artificial cold. The means by which these techniques were translated into the home is central to my discussion and I show how the domestication of refrigeration also played a role in the reconfiguration of associated practices, such as freezing, shopping and eating. I consider the process of normalisation through which refrigerators shifted category from novel products to essential appliances and argue that in many ways the refrigerator has now become integral to the constitution of domestic space. My research follows the lifecourse of the refrigerator and its journeys through multiple sites and spaces, enabling me to analyse diverse refrigerator knowledges and practices from repair shops and recycling facilities to scrap yards and museums, in addition to the home. Although using a refrigerator is frequently dismissed as something ‘self-evident’ or ‘obvious,’ I argue that fridge practices are not innate but learned. I explore ways in which these knowledges travel and pay particular attention to the translation of scientific and technical knowledges into domestic contexts. The ‘reach’ of the domestic refrigerator is considerable and I use one of the more notorious moments in its career, when refrigerators were implicated in global climate change, as a way to show how day to day activities like chilling milk and lettuce can have far-reaching effects at a range of scales.  ii  TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract .......................................................................................................................... ii Table of Contents.......................................................................................................... iii List of Figures .............................................................................................................. vii List of Acronyms and Abbreviations ........................................................................... x Acknowledgements ....................................................................................................... xi Chapter 1  INTRODUCTION: REFRIGERATORS, PRACTICES, KNOWLEDGES AND JOURNEYS..................................................... 1 The Week in the Window....................................................................... 1 Foregrounding the fridge ..................................................................... 11 Key themes .................................................................................... 12 Round social theory with a fridge.................................................. 15 White box, black box..................................................................... 22 Fridge talk, texts and tea...................................................................... 25 A brief route map through the dissertation ....................................... 34  Chapter 2  CATCHING COLD: HISTORIES OF NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL COOLING .................................................................... 36 The Confectioners’ precarious commodity ........................................ 36 Harvesting and trading natural ice ..................................................... 39 Bacon, chicken and snow .............................................................. 39 Unroofing the house of fishes........................................................ 40 A slippery speculation ................................................................... 42 The Ice King and the frozen water trade ....................................... 43 Importing cold ............................................................................... 48 The theory and practice of mechanical refrigeration........................ 53 (Mis)understanding heat and cold ................................................. 56 Measuring temperature ........................................................ 57 Competing material and mechanical theories of heat.......... 59 Changing the state of matter................................................. 61 Heat engines, heat pumps and the Second Law of Thermodynamics................................................................... 62 First steps in artificial refrigeration ............................................... 64 Three routes to mechanical cooling............................................... 66 Industrial drivers of refrigeration....................................................... 70 Manufacturing artificial ice ........................................................... 70 The brewing industry..................................................................... 72 Moving meat.................................................................................. 74 iii  Ice and rails .......................................................................... 75 Ocean-going vehicles of cold................................................ 79 Remapping Britain’s meat supplies ...................................... 86 Cold reservoirs ..................................................................... 90 Grasping cold: physics in the museum and the kitchen.................... 92 Chapter 3  THE POWER OF COOLING............................................................. 98 Discovering a Lilliputian geography of germs ................................... 98 Ice use in the home.............................................................................. 106 Ice engineering............................................................................. 107 The domestic icebox: scaling down the ice house....................... 108 Electrifying the icebox........................................................................ 114 Mobilising electricity................................................................... 115 The development of mechanical refrigerators ............................. 118 Competing kinds of cooling................................................................ 125 ‘Mechanicals’ versus ice.............................................................. 125 Gas versus electricity................................................................... 129 Spreading the electrical message....................................................... 133 Building load, one appliance at a time......................................... 134 Gendering electricity ................................................................... 136 The Electrical Association for Women........................................ 139 Housewives, bachelor girls and electrical exhibitions ....... 142 Innovation in the All-Electric House .................................. 145 ‘Prefabs’ and postwar housing .......................................................... 147  Chapter 4  GETTING A REFRIGERATION EDUCATION ........................... 160 Fridge knowledges .............................................................................. 161 Domestic training......................................................................... 162 Learning by ‘osmosis’ ................................................................. 164 Just how common is ‘common knowledge’?............................... 165 Learning through observation and practice..................................... 167 Learning from refrigerator handbooks ............................................ 172 Sinister facts and safe spaces....................................................... 173 Battling the invisible organisms of spoilage................................ 175 The care and feeding of the domestic refrigerator....................... 177 Cleaning.............................................................................. 177 Defrosting ........................................................................... 178 Mapping and ordering........................................................ 179 Cold Cookery............................................................................... 184 Chilled dainties and the physics of dessert......................... 185 Adventures in salad............................................................. 186 Learning to love leftovers ................................................... 187 Doubling the charm of your cocktails ................................ 187 Hidden work: baffled by a Princess............................................. 188 Becoming frozen-minded: freezing as a new practice ..................... 193 A lack of refrigerator knowledge ...................................................... 198 iv  Chapter 5  LIVING WITH A FRIDGE............................................................... 201 Domesticating cold.............................................................................. 202 Pre-fridge storage and food management practices ........................ 207 Sharing food and building social networks ................................. 210 A rhythm to the week .................................................................. 211 Patterns of provisioning: buying little, buying often ................... 213 The changing shape of shopping ................................................. 216 Shelf life ............................................................................................... 220 Date stamps and generational differences ................................... 220 Reconfiguring relationships with food: trusting ‘science’ or ‘common sense’? ......................................................................... 224 Moral economies of safety versus waste ..................................... 228 Negotiating the refrigerator as a shared social space...................... 233 Fridge etiquette ............................................................................ 233 Ordering practices: fridge contents ‘in’ and ‘out’ of place.......... 236 Rescripting the refrigerator.......................................................... 242 Living without a fridge: the fridgeless few........................................ 248 Carrie and Keith and their very cold kitchen............................... 249 Frank and Claire: disconnecting (from) the fridge ...................... 251 ‘Bobbly milk’ and ‘sneaky meat’: relationships between diet and refrigeration........................................................................... 254 Storage methods: ‘low-tech’ technologies of preservation ......... 257 Thinking outside the cool-box ..................................................... 264  Chapter 6  THE ELF, THE MOUNTAIN AND THE MUSEUM: THE LIFE OF A FRIDGE AFTER DEATH....................................................... 266 Fridge trouble ..................................................................................... 266 Troubleshooting and repair.......................................................... 268 Improvising, putting up and making do....................................... 270 Co-producing diagnostic knowledge ........................................... 272 Technical illiteracy and the economics of repair ......................... 273 The graveyard and the salvage mind ............................................... 276 Responding to social needs: rescuing and adding value.............. 277 Repair, reliability and mobility.................................................... 280 The Great British Fridge Fiasco ....................................................... 286 An embarrassment of fridges....................................................... 286 Chlorofluorocarbons: from miracle to menace............................ 288 Wandering molecules: the fridge, the sink and the stratosphere ........................................................................ 289 The circulation of scientific knowledges and the road to Montreal ............................................................................. 291 The making of a mountain........................................................... 297 Creating a froth about foam ............................................... 298 The small print and the big ‘if’ ........................................... 301 Re-routing the flows of dead fridges ........................................... 304 v  The economics and ethics of export.................................... 304 From household good to hazardous waste ......................... 309 Feeding the ‘fridge eaters’: a cyclone in a box............................ 312 The move to the museum: from everyday appliance to historic artefact ................................................................................................ 316 The well-travelled Whirlpool ...................................................... 317 Belonging and mobility....................................................... 320 The very hungry refrigerator: reliability and retirement ... 321 Preserving a technology of preservation............................................... 325 Bibliography................................................................................................................ 329 Appendices................................................................................................................... 356 Appendix A: Interview Participants ..................................................... 356 Appendix B: Oral Histories, British Library Sound Archive ............... 359 Appendix C: Interview Guide............................................................... 360 Appendix D: Certificate of Approval to Conduct Research with Human Subjects .............................................................. 362  vi  LIST OF FIGURES  Figure 1.1  Curious onlookers, Harrods, May 2002.................................................... 1  Figure 1.2  Advert for the LG Internet Family............................................................ 3  Figure 1.3  The Internet Family in the kitchen using the refrigerator......................... 7  Figure 1.4  The Internet Family in the kitchen using the refrigerator......................... 7  Figure 1.5  LG magazine advertisement, 2003 ........................................................... 8  Figure 2.1  Small-scale ice harvesting, mid-nineteenth century ............................... 40  Figure 2.2  The Knickerbocker Ice Company........................................................... 41  Figure 2.3  Horse-drawn ice ploughs ........................................................................ 45  Figure 2.4  The Ice Trade c. 1854 ............................................................................. 47  Figure 2.5  Norwegian ice being unloaded at the London Docks, 1874 ................... 49  Figure 2.6  Cover of Refrigeration Exhibition Guide, 1934 ..................................... 54  Figure 3.1  Mary Engle Pennington’s depiction of germs ...................................... 100  Figure 3.2  Frigidaire advertisement, 1926 ............................................................. 104  Figure 3.3  BTH advertisement, 1932..................................................................... 105  Figure 3.4  Illustration of iceboxes from Ropes & Co. sales catalogue.................. 109  Figure 3.5  Dry Cold Air American Refrigerator, c. 1880...................................... 111  Figure 3.6  Dry Cold Air American Refrigerator, c. 1880...................................... 111  Figure 3.7  The first Kelvinator Refrigerator, c. 1914 ............................................ 120  Figure 3.8  A Kelvinator refrigerator with remote refrigeration unit...................... 121  Figure 3.9  Electrolux Refrigerator, formerly owned by King George V............... 124  Figure 3.10  Carlo Gatti ice delivery cart.................................................................. 125  Figure 3.11  Combination gas stove and refrigerator................................................ 132  Figure 3.12  Combination gas stove and refrigerator................................................ 132  Figure 3.13  EAW Fortieth Anniversary tea towel, 1964 ......................................... 140  vii  Figure 3.14  Edna Moseley’s ‘Bachelor Girl’s All-Electric Flat’, 1930................... 143  Figure 3.15  Electrical working-class kitchen, 1932................................................. 144  Figure 3.16  The EAW’s All-Electric House, Bristol, 1935 ..................................... 145  Figure 3.17  All-Electric House, interior .................................................................. 145  Figure 3.18  Plan of the Portal Pressed Steel Bungalow........................................... 149  Figure 3.19  Formal opening of the Aluminium prefabricated bungalow ................ 150  Figure 3.20  Plan of the Aluminium bungalow......................................................... 152  Figure 3.21  Erecting a prototype Aluminium prefab, Tate Gallery, 1945............... 153  Figure 3.22  Erecting a prototype Aluminium prefab, Tate Gallery, 1945............... 153  Figure 3.23  Erecting a prototype Aluminium prefab, Tate Gallery, 1945............... 153  Figure 3.24  Prefab kitchen, Museum of Welsh Life, c. 1950 .................................. 156  Figure 4.1  EAW training course for Demonstrators, Halstead, Essex, 1946......... 168  Figure 4.2  GEC cooking demonstration................................................................. 169  Figure 4.3  Jenny Webb, LEB ‘West Indian Evening,’ 1965 ................................. 171  Figure 4.4  Jenny Webb at the Electricity Council’s Appliance Testing Lab......... 172  Figure 4.5  Diagram of the correct arrangement of food in a Frigidaire, 1928....... 180  Figure 4.6  The correct method of food storage in your BTH refrigerator, 1932 ... 181  Figure 5.1  Philco advertisement, 1950................................................................... 203  Figure 5.2  Ruth’s built-in ventilated dresser.......................................................... 208  Figure 5.3  Abigail’s built-in Norcool corner fridge............................................... 240  Figure 5.4  Inside the Norcool refrigerator ............................................................. 240  Figure 5.5  The disconnected gas fridge ................................................................. 254  Figure 5.6  Refrigerator as storage cupboard .......................................................... 254  Figure 5.7  Cool kitchen cupboards and surfaces ................................................... 258  Figure 5.8  Frank & Claire’s outdoor food storage spaces ..................................... 258  Figure 5.9  Frank’s meat preservation device ......................................................... 259  Figure 5.10  The pamment floor and the marble slab: Keith & Carrie’s ‘fridge’ ..... 261  Figure 5.11  Earthenware milk bottle cooler............................................................. 263  viii  Figure 6.1  Grace’s disinfectant-scarred fridge....................................................... 269  Figure 6.2  Dorothy Ladd and her 43 year-old Kelvinator ..................................... 271  Figure 6.3  Collecting and loading up a donated fridge.......................................... 279  Figure 6.4  Collecting and loading up a donated fridge.......................................... 279  Figure 6.5  Wheeling a fridge into the workshop for testing .................................. 281  Figure 6.6  Doug replacing a thermostat................................................................. 283  Figure 6.7  Fridges on sale in Respond’s warehouse .............................................. 283  Figure 6.8  Checking the temperature gauge .......................................................... 284  Figure 6.9  Fridge Mountain in Manchester............................................................ 287  Figure 6.10  EMR’s Fridge Recycling facility in Willesden, London ...................... 313  Figure 6.11  Fridges being delivered and awaiting disposal..................................... 314  Figure 6.12  On route to the sealed ‘Cyclone Chamber’ to be broken down............ 315  Figure 6.13  The Emery’s 1966 Whirlpool fridge..................................................... 319  Figure 6.14  The Transformer mounted on a board by Fred..................................... 319  Figure 6.15  Fred’s DIY fridge repair ....................................................................... 322  Figure 6.16  The Science Museum’s climate-controlled Large Object Store ........... 326  ix  LIST OF ACRONYMS AND ABBREVIATIONS BAS CFA CFC cu ft CVC DEFRA DETR DoRDeC DTI EAW ECD EDA ELF ENDS EPA EWC FDF FISS CGW FFRC FFSS FSA GEC GHS HoC EFRAC IFT ISFT LEB MAF MAFF MMB MOA MoWL MP n.d. NASA NOAA ODS RICA rpm THP UNEP UV WGPW WMO  British Antarctic Survey Chilled Food Association Chlorofluorocarbon cubic feet Central Valuation Committee Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Department of Environment, Transport & the Regions Domestic Refrigeration Development Committee Department of Trade & Industry Electrical Association for Women Electron Capture Detector Electrical Development Association end-of-life fridge Environmental Data Services United States Environmental Protection Agency European Waste Catalogue Food and Drink Federation Food Industry Sustainability Strategy Champions’ Group on Waste Food Freezer and Refrigeration Council Food: From Source to Salespoint Food Standards Agency General Electric Company General Household Survey House of Commons Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committee Institute of Food Technologists Institute of Food Science and Technology London Electricity Board Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food Millennium Memory Bank Mass Observation Archive Museum of Welsh Life Member of Parliament no date National Aeronautics and Space Administration National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ozone depleting substances Research Institute for Consumer Affairs revolutions per minute Temporary Housing Programme United Nations Environment Programme ultraviolet Women’s Group on Public Welfare World Meteorological Organization x  ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am immensely grateful to all my research participants for sparing their time to help me in my research, for welcoming me into their homes and workplaces and for sharing their ‘fridge stories’ with me. Much of my fieldwork was made possible by the generosity of friends, and friends of friends, who were kind enough to invite me to stay with them, or gracious enough not to object when I invited myself. Thank you Steve, Christine, Anne, Bridget, Ross and Alice, Mark, Rachel and Piers. I am grateful to those people, John especially, who recruited participants on my behalf, and also to the copyright holders of the images that appear in the following pages for granting me permission to reproduce them. Many thanks go to my committee members Derek Gregory, Geraldine Pratt, Trevor Barnes and Charlotte Townsend-Gault for their guidance, feedback and encouragement. Particular mention must go to Derek for a certain fridge-related comprehensive examination question – little did he know where it would lead! During my time at UBC, I feel fortunate to have made some wonderful friends and to have had the opportunity to share ideas, offices, conference hotel rooms and the fun and frustrations of grad school with so many people, including Alison, Jen, Amy, Elia, Shelly, Maija, Cherie, Eric, Natalie, Arn, Étienne, John, Jennifer, Juanita and Bonnie (who probably has no idea how significant the timing of her enthusiastic response was in helping me to finally decide on fridges as my dissertation topic). A big thank you to all the members of SWIG over the years for being such a great support network. I also want to thank Darren, Mark, Kathy-Ann, Betty, Diane, Penny, Hilary and Karen. My thanks to Marjorie, Susan and Glenys for their efforts to keep my body in working order as well as my brain. For welcome reminders to stop and play along the way I am profoundly grateful to WomenFriends, Garry’s running group and The Carnival Band. Many people have kept me going through the long writing process and that I stuck it out is in large part due to them. A big thank you to my sister, Sophie, and my parents, Claire and Barry, for all their love, support and patience over the years. Two people in particular played a critical role in this process and without them I might not have made it to this point: first Ali, a valued friend, a great writing coach and the creator of a ‘dissertation advent calendar’ which I cherish; second, Louise, who has been a far greater inspiration to me than I think she realises and who has provided endless love and support, words of wisdom and a healthy dose of perspective. Thank you for continuing to believe in me, especially at all those times when I was convinced that I was doomed to drown in an endless sea of fridges. I look forward to the next adventure.  xi  Chapter 1 Introduction: refrigerators, practices, knowledges & journeys THE WEEK IN THE WINDOW Had you been making your way along London’s Brompton Road on Monday May 20th, 2002, or any day that week, your eye might have been drawn to a crowd of people clustered around the window of Harrods (Figure 1.1). If curiosity had got the better of you, you may have felt inclined to manoeuvre your way through the throng to take a closer look at whatever was attracting such attention. There you would have gazed upon “The Window On The Future,” as they called it – a marketing promotion concocted by LG Electronics, a South Korean electronics manufacturing giant, and Harrods, a one-time grocer’s shop from Stepney and now probably the world’s most famous department store. And what would you have seen in, as it were, ‘The Future,’ had you peered through the window that day in May? Figure 1.1 Curious onlookers, Harrods, May 2002  © LG Electronics, used with permission  1  Inside, looking out, were two families. One had arrived in the window as a result of an advertising campaign inviting applicants to audition for the roles of the mother, father, teenage son and teenage daughter in ‘The LG Internet Family.’ “Looking for a different view of the world?” LG’s ads enquired. “Could you spend six days living in Harrods’ shop window?” (Figure 1.2). Their task for that time in the window was to draw attention to the other LG Internet Family, this one the first ‘family’ of networked domestic appliances to be launched into the UK market. Forty finalists were invited to audition, twelve were shortlisted and members of the public voted online to select the final four, which is how Sarah, Carl, Steve and Charlie came to claim their ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ by sharing Harrods’ storefront with a washing machine, microwave oven, air conditioner and fridge.1 Smart, sleek, sexy and positioned centre-stage was the fridge: £6000-worth of multi-media internetenabled fridge, to be precise.  1 The advert ran in The Evening Standard, The Guardian, Time Out and The Stage. LG claims that 6 million people read or heard about ‘The Search for the Family’ and around one thousand people entered the competition. The judges included an actor and theatre director, a reporter and documentary maker and an entertainment producer involved in events such as Big Brother and Miss World, along with Harrods’ Events Marketing Manager and LG’s Technical Product Manager. The four family members selected were Sarah Wooster, a 41-year-old counsellor, Carl Newman, a 40-year-old sales consultant, Steve Wilson, an 18-year-old radio presenter and Charlie Parker, a 17-year-old student. In one interview, Sarah commented: “I’m probably half-way through my life and haven’t had my 15minutes of fame yet – I think this could be it.”  2  Figure 1.2 Advert for the LG Internet Family  © LG Electronics, used with permission  The family ‘went live’ that Monday at 10am when Harrods owner Mohammed Al Fayed lifted the blinds to reveal four “live mannequins” who would spend the week living in public view.2 Al Fayed was delighted by the promotion. “I think it’s a fantastic idea,” he said, “just like theatre” (www.lginternetfamily.co.uk).3 And theatrical it certainly was. No pretence was made that this represented an average week in a typical British home, what with the designer clothes and daily makeovers, the constant press and webcam coverage, the visit from the Korean Ambassador and the regularity with which celebrities (such as the World Snooker Champion, members of the Riverdance troupe and contestants from the television show Big Brother) dropped by to set the family challenges, not to mention the family’s energetic daily  2 Prior to the week, LG had held a media launch for press and television crews and a trade event for kitchen specialists, architects, designers, property developers. 3 All quotations not otherwise referenced are taken from LG’s website www.lginternetfamily.co.uk, which provided extensive coverage over the course of the week.  3  rendition of the LG song – in Korean.4 Their Harrods ‘home’ consisted of four room sets, a kitchen, a living room, a leisure area and a spa and relaxation area, filled with designer furniture, electronics and appliances. Fully functional as ‘stand alone’ appliances, each of the products in LG’s networked home appliance range can access the internet via a laptop computer to download programme upgrades:5 However, to obtain the full benefit and capability of the Networked Appliances they must be connected to each other … in order to communicate and offer remote access. … The main consumer benefits are that you have full access to your digital appliances in the office or when using your mobile phone – so you can turn your washing on, download a Thai chicken curry Microwave recipe or cool your home down at the touch of a button. … You can surf the net, check or send emails and do your shopping while preparing or eating a meal (http://www.lginternetfamily.co.uk/homenetwork.asp)  The GR-D267DTU Digital Multimedia side-by-side Fridge-Freezer is described as the ‘lynch-pin’ of the family because contained within it is the server that enables all the appliances to ‘talk’ to one another. Coupled with a mobile phone, the fridge enables various household functions to be controlled from virtually anywhere and it also collapses space to ‘bring the world’ into the kitchen. Alongside a dispenser for ice cubes and iced water, the fridge door boasts a 15-inch touch-screen communication interface: Watch TV, listen to music or surf the internet using this titanium finish, state-of-the-art fridge freezer. It’s the ultimate in kitchen technology with a built-in MP3 player for downloading and playing music from the internet, e-mail and video mail using a built-in camera and microphone. It even has full internet access so you can re-stock the refrigerator on-line or check on the latest news and weather, all without leaving the kitchen (http://www.lginternetfamily.co.uk/homenetwork.asp).  4  Saranghayo Saranghayo Saranghayo LG, Urimodu Oosoby-yo Mee-rayay Olkulo Arum, Do-win Uri sa-rang onsae san-ge Pozi ri, Saranghayo Saranghayo Saranghayo LG  which translates as: I love you, I love you, I love you LG, Let’s smile together in the face of the future, Our beautiful love is spread out all over the world, I love you, I love you, I love you LG 5 This move acknowledges that technologies are never ‘complete’ but continue to evolve and change. The ability to download updated software builds into these machines the potential to assume capacities that have not yet been developed or possibly even imagined.  4  “And it’s great for storing food too,” the webpage adds, as well as providing a recipe database and nutritional fact file, electronic maintenance manuals and the capability to selfdiagnose minor faults on-screen. Ever-present and always on, this fridge, with its voice mail, video mail and on-screen text messaging, becomes a site for interaction between oftenabsent others. Apparently, it can even recognise your handwriting – though for all its impressive gadgetry, it manages to score only a ‘B’ rating for energy efficiency. Its claim to monitor food contents and expiry dates also turns out to be more ‘low tech’ than it sounds for it involves manually entering each item and its storage period into a database, after which the fridge counts down the days.6 Nevertheless, this is a fridge that does much more than simply chill your milk. With its host of built-in entertainment and communication features, this product seeks to re-imagine the role and rationale of the refrigerator. My purpose in presenting the scene in Harrods’ window is primarily to put the refrigerator centre stage as an explicit focus of attention, just as was LG’s intention, and also to suggest that looking at the fridge can indeed offer a different view of the world. The promotion caught people’s eye because it showed household appliances in a context where they would not ordinarily be seen. This dissertation attempts to do the same. Both are deliberate strategies to arouse the curiosity of the viewer, reader or the passer by, to try and make them stop and wonder and to encourage them to see familiar things from a fresh perspective. I position a seemingly mundane household appliance as an object of a detailed academic study – an unexpected location for a fridge. In doing so, I propose that refrigerators and refrigeration can be rich and revealing subjects whose study can offer insights into knowledges, practices and people’s relationships with things. “The Week in the Window” was intended to depict a family “living and managing their lives with the help of LG’s range of networked appliances” (Figure 1.3). LG wanted to convey the message that the products were stylish, interactive, entertaining and easy to use. As more complex versions of technologies with which people are familiar, locating them in a setting that, though somewhat stylised, is recognisable as ‘home’ helped domesticate them. They are similar enough to seem accessible but different enough to capture one’s attention. 6 Technology for automatic barcode scanning is in development but not yet on stream.  5  “Demonstration of the new technology and its capabilities is key,” emphasised LG’s Sales and Marketing Director John Lougher. A crucial element of the family’s role was therefore to perform product demonstrations, including “regular interaction with the fridge screen,” on the principle that certain knowledges are best communicated through action (Figure 1.4). Showing is a powerful way of teaching and people can learn a lot about a product and its capabilities by watching others use it. That said, the focus on performing the mundane practices of daily life was limited. Relatively little was done in the way of household labour, food management or routine preparation of meals; indeed, the press release announcing that LG Electronics’ ‘mother’ had won her place in Harrods’ window noted that Sarah “will avoid the traditional mother’s role of cooking as the family’s food will be prepared by top chefs and brought into the ‘house.’”7 Certain tasks did involve using the appliances (such as making a Sunday lunch, washing laundry or downloading a recipe to cook in the microwave), but for most of the challenges they were marginal at best (like when it came to playing snooker, dancing in a wig, creating play-dough models of the viewers watching through the window or making window boxes blindfolded!). These became pure spectacle. Thus, the knowledges being communicated were not simply practical tips on how to operate these appliances but also the ‘knowledge’ that they were desirable consumer objects associated with leisure and enjoyment. Marketing involves subtly educating people to be good consumers and suggesting that they should be using, or aspiring to use, products of this kind. Life, it appears, would be richer, easier, more organised – and certainly much more fun – with one of these.  7 http://www.lginternetfamily.co.uk/press/sarahwoosterwins.pdf  6  Figures 1.3 & 1.4 The Internet Family in the kitchen using the refrigerator  © LG Electronics, used with permission  The domestic ‘future’ depicted in the window was a playful one, far more focused upon leisure than on labour. Here, the fridge makes music and grocery shopping is something done online while one cooks or eats. It is quick. It is simple. It is barely work. The shape of the appliances (and the nature of the leisure activities) may have changed, but the message is nothing new. In a trope familiar throughout the history of appliance advertising, their promotion does not speak of ‘work’ so much as its removal by machines. The ability to perform the work of organising, as well as cooling, is explicitly attributed to the fridge in LG’s parallel magazine advertising campaign (Figure 1.5).  7  Figure 1.5 LG magazine advertisements, 2003  © LG Electronics, used with permission  Given that the target markets for this appliance range are the ‘rich’ and ‘super-rich’ demographics, along with ‘early-adopters,’ designers and architects, Brian Williams, LG’s Technical Product Manager, told me in an interview that LG did not expect the Harrods launch to generate mass sales. The exercise was more of an investment in brand awareness, one aiming to generate a high level of publicity, to associate LG’s name with innovation and to represent the company as having ‘a vision of the future.’ At the end of the week the Sales and Marketing Director commented that: 8  The LG Internet Family was compulsive viewing … We are delighted with the public and media response. LG is now firmly on the map and the public now knows just what we – and our appliances – are capable of.  This conceptualises the audience’s act of looking as simultaneously an act of mapping, for to be known is to be located ‘on the map.’ In essence, marketing is all about increasing ‘mindshare,’ that is, the prominence with which brands are positioned in people’s minds or how much mental space they occupy. Thousands of shoppers and passers-by watched the spectacle through the window and the official London tour bus was even rerouted specially for the occasion, but physical proximity was not a prerequisite to witness ‘The Week in the Window.’8 Extensive media coverage turned it into a global affair. The four gave numerous television, radio and press interviews and two dozen countries across Europe and from the United States, South Africa and Japan to Korea and Kazakhstan featured footage of the ‘Internet Family.’ Viewers could also take virtual tours of the home and watch live webcam broadcasts on a website (www.lginternetfamily.co.uk) that received four million hits during the course of the week (so even if you had not been heading down the street that week, you need not have missed the fun).9 The intention was to bring both families into hypervisibility, piggybacking one upon the other in their store-front ‘home.’ “The actor in me can’t wait to step onto the Harrods stage” said Steve, the ‘son,’ before the launch, “what a thrill to be watched for six days. … I hope I also get into the papers and onto TV.” In a curious melding of marketing, reality TV, product placement and pantomime, the LG Internet Family performed ‘family’ and ‘domesticity’ with and through technology in front of audiences on Brompton Street and beyond. Fascinating though the Internet Fridge might be, this dissertation is not a detailed study of ‘smart’ fridges, though it is about living with machines, about developments in household  8 Harrods’ figures indicate that 30,000 shoppers visit the store each day and 175,000 people pass the windows each weekday, with closer to 225,000 on Saturdays. 9 The week was heavily plugged as an ‘interactive’ event in which the public could participate in the event, though participation consisted mainly of selecting the final four and then voting on ‘twists’ to make the daily challenges more amusing (such as performing them blindfolded or wearing wigs!). A strong incentive to participate was that all those who voted online were entered into a prize draw to win the appliances in the window, together worth £10,000.  9  technology and about domestic practice.10 I am less concerned with the specificities of what happens when one fuses a fridge and a computer, or refrigerates one’s food in public view, than with how this kind of melding or exposure might prompt us to re-examine our assumptions about the purpose and significance of the refrigerator. The Internet Fridge is a distant relative of simple wooden chests in which food was cooled by placing it alongside blocks of ice, which raises the question for me of how exactly we got from there to here. There was no inevitability about this trajectory, no guarantee that household appliances would eventually evolve internet capabilities. More to the point, it was not inevitable that fridges would catch on at all or end up as integral components of British homes. When I asked my interviewees whether a smart fridge would be of interest to them, some were astonished that such a thing existed and few imagined it being an appliance they would want, need or be willing to pay for. Some sounded curious to play with one for novelty’s sake, but most had difficulty envisaging it having a meaningful role in their day to day lives. The fascinating point here is that had my interviews been taking place in the 1930s, or even the 1940s or 50s, the same might have been said about the ‘conventional’ household refrigerator – a fancy gadget and all very nice if you had the money, but not something for which most people saw a pressing need. The LG fridge was a hit with the Internet Family. At the end of their week in the window, three of the four chose it as their favourite product.11 Charlie commented: “I liked playing with the internet fridge, … I mean, it’s just great, it’s huge and can, it seems, do just about everything.” When I visited Harrods’ appliance department a year or so later and asked about sales of the Internet Fridge, a sales assistant commented wryly that lots of people came in to ‘play’ with it, but no one was buying. The fridge was evidently positioned in the category of ‘toy,’ rather than having the status of a ‘tool’ (Pantzar 2003), and it is hard to predict whether or not it will eventually be something Britons feel they ‘need.’ The fridge was also Carl’s favourite product: “without sounding geekish, it’s very sexy. Its titanium finish, its use of space, I love it.” Steve agreed: “my favourite has to be the fridge. I love its 10 For a more specific focus on the internet fridge, ‘smart’ appliances and the networked home, see Kristina Marcellus’s doctoral research in sociology at Queen’s University in Canada (Marcellus 2005). 11 Sarah opted for the washing machine instead, wishing she had had one when her own children were small.  10  aptitude to be a fridge one minute, a music player the next and then receive my emails as well.” The family members were enamoured by its stylish appearance, versatility, multiple identities and ability to disrupt their preconceptions about what a fridge should look like, what a fridge should sound like and what a fridge should do. Steve’s notion of an object’s ‘aptitude’ to be a fridge provoked me to think more about what might constitute the inherent properties of ‘fridgeness,’ to ask where preconceptions about refrigerators come from and to explore how these have settled into common understandings of a refrigerator’s qualities, its capabilities and the ways it should be used. For me, the presence of this hypervisible refrigerator – centre stage within a home made-public – serves to raise a series of question that underlie this dissertation: Where did refrigerators come from and how did they get into the kitchen? How and why have they become commonplace, necessary and normal? How do people learn to use them, and learn to live with them? How have they influenced practices of feeding and provisioning? How do they work? What work do they do? What happens when they stop working? How have they become so present yet also so invisible?  FOREGROUNDING THE FRIDGE My dissertation tells a story about people, objects, ideas and the entanglements between them. I explore the spatial reorganisation of cooling, the domestication of cold and the ingredients – conceptual, technical, material and political – from which the refrigerator was built. I am interested in how refrigeration technology was variously imagined, made material and modified; how the role and status of the fridge, and people’s relationships with it, have shifted over time; and not only how refrigerators move into the home, but also where they travel to thereafter. My research is on the refrigerator in Britain, or at least that was my intent. However, the refrigerator, in its making, strays. It rapidly became clear that the fridge histories and geographies I want to tell refuse to stay neatly contained within national boundaries. Instead, they spill with some regularity into other parts of Europe, navigate the crossing to Australia, New Zealand and South America, make their way to West Africa, venture on more than one occasion to Antarctica and, above all, insist on repeatedly returning to the United States. 11  Therefore, while my focus stays on Britain, it does not remain exclusively so. This is not a comparative study so much as one that centres primarily on Britain but travels elsewhere too, and in so doing demonstrates the diversity of people and places implicated in its histories of cooling. For an object now so integral to contemporary British kitchens, the domestic refrigerator is a surprisingly recent innovation, historically speaking. The very first mechanical refrigerators for domestic use were developed just before the First World War, but it was not until some decades later that they became a common fixture in the home. My parents bought their first fridge when I was born. They were part of the wave of adopters at the close of the 1960s and into beginning of the 1970s who finally nudged national fridge ownership into the majority. It is therefore only within my own lifetime that the refrigerator grew ordinary. It is easy for those of my generation and later to slip into the assumption that things like refrigerators or cars or washing machines have always been the norm. As Pantzar (2003) points out in his analysis of the cognitive work required for that which is novel to be made normal, it is not customary to question whether or why such things are necessary, or how that necessity came into being. As seemingly ubiquitous appliances in contemporary Britain, refrigerators grew into such familiar objects that they rarely intrude into one’s consciousness, that is unless they misbehave, for often it is only when tools or equipment break down that they draw attention to themselves (Verbeek 2004, p. 79-80). Generally, we fail to notice the ways in which they are actively accommodated into our lives and our kitchens (Gregson 2006). My aim is to peel away the patina of ordinariness built up with age and familiarity and, for a moment, to approach the fridge as a point of focus in its own right, rather than as background (Goffman 1959).  Key themes Emerging from the Week in the Window, with a refrigerator at its heart, are six key themes which thread through the chapters in this dissertation. The first two are the intertwined conceptions of ‘refrigerator knowledges’ and ‘refrigerator practices.’ I am interested in a variety of fridge-related knowledges and know-how, ranging from the work of observation, 12  theorisation and practical experimentation to the acts of guesswork and imagination that underlay the invention and development of refrigeration and also shape its day to day use. I pay attention to ways in which knowledges are produced and organised and ways in which they move. I focus the process of learning how to use a fridge, which raises questions about the knowledges it requires or assumes and also those that it displaces. In turn, this leads me to consider intersections between ‘scientific,’ ‘technological’ and ‘domestic’ practices and knowledges and the extent to which these map onto particular spaces. My primary interest could perhaps best be thought of as ‘spatial object-knowledge practices,’ a slightly clumsy term, but one seeking to encompass the multiple intersections around which my study took shape. A preoccupation with material objects and machines forms a third strand. My research stems from a curiosity about how we cohabit with our things, how we make and use them, mend them and discard them, or creatively appropriate them for purposes for which they were not intended. The roles of objects as carriers of knowledge is central here, and I look at the circulation of ideas through things like lumps of ice, ships, sides of beef and chemical refrigerants as well as through written texts like patents, instruction booklets or personal correspondence between friends, colleagues or collaborators. Though there are many sites and spaces caught up in this story, domestic space is my point of departure and the place to which I repeatedly return. My fourth strand focuses on domesticity and the objects, technologies and practices out of which this space is made. I am interested in refrigerators as technologies but principally in them as domestic and domesticated technologies. Even when my discussion roams into shopfronts, museums, cargo holds, laboratories or scrap yards, practices like storing and transporting food, performing demonstrations, reading manuals or throwing things away help knit these sites together with domestic spaces. The fifth strand plays upon ideas of scale and (hyper)visibility. I suggest that, in many ways, refrigeration emerged out of an ability to see the world at a new scale. In turn, it enables us, perhaps even compels us, to engage with the world at different scales. The rationale for refrigerating food stems from an awareness that bacteria exist on a microscale, invisible to the naked eye, whilst the availability of artificial cooling makes possible a global trade in  13  perishable foodstuffs. Refrigeration was used first in industry. Domestication involved a physical process of scaling down the technology, but it also depended on a shifting perspective in order to see potential applications at the scale of the domestic. It is also evident that ‘small’ things can have ‘big’ effects. The refrigerator’s ability to control temperature artificially arises from manipulating gases and liquids in pipes just a few millimetres across. One effect of the widespread use of refrigeration and air conditioning has been to enlarge the proportion of the world considered habitable; another has been at once molecular and global as chemical reactions triggered by substances in refrigerants have been implicated in global climate change. Lastly, I frame my account around ‘journeys.’ I have various kinds of journey in mind, which between them evoke the multiple forms of mobility and mutability that my dissertation deals with. Some take the form of material movements of physical objects, such as the import and export of blocks of ice, sides of mutton or refrigerator cabinets across national borders. Others involve the journeys of ideas and explore ways that knowledge spreads, ways that people learn or the evolution of competing bodies of ideas. The lifecourse of the refrigerator itself, in its passage through stages of design, production, use, disposal, destruction or preservation, represents another kind of journey, as does its conceptual movement through categories of meaning and value, such as its transition from luxury into ordinariness, or its transformation from commodity to waste. In parallel are my own journeys into different bodies of ideas and through diverse research sites on the trail of the refrigerator in British kitchens and beyond. As to how I went about my research, my approach was principally one of following: following the fridges, following the evolution of ideas about cooling, following shifts in social practice, following the paper trails. This was, in part, an intellectual journey, but also a bodily one. I travelled by plane, train, van, foot and forklift truck. I encountered old fridges, new fridges, working fridges, broken fridges, fridges crammed with food and retired fridges held in perpetuity for the nation in museum collections. I found myself in many recognisable repositories of knowledge – the museum, archive, library, manufacturer’s headquarters – but also in more unexpected sites of knowledge production, such as the van, dump, warehouse  14  or kitchen. I talked to dozens of people about their connections with refrigerators, both professional and personal, and was grateful to have been welcomed into so many people’s homes. In addition, there were many vicarious journeys. Some I was relieved not to be partaking in, such as early experimental transatlantic crossings with failed refrigeration systems and cargos of rotting meat, but others sounded much more entertaining and although I did not personally hitchhike round Ireland with a fridge in tow as the result of a drunken bet, I interviewed a man who did.  Round social theory with a fridge Something else looked briefly promising. This was called ‘Theory’ and it was just coming in. The point about Theory was that it didn’t matter if you read Jane Eyre or a fridge installation manual: what you were doing was studying how you studied them, and the important thing now was not the (anyway, unquantifiable) ‘value’ of the original work but the effectiveness of the theory (Faulks 2008, p. 24)  A fridge makes for an unconventional travelling companion. Tony Hawks might have been the ‘eejit’ hitching Round Ireland with a fridge (1998), but I was the person hauling a household appliance with me on my journey through various academic literatures. Below I sketch out some of the literatures which have informed my own refrigerator knowledges. Wanting to roam widely, I try to travel light by drawing upon the wealth of secondary literatures in a way that is suggestive rather than comprehensive. This is not intended to be a highly theoretical dissertation. I like to think of theory as a set of sturdy and supportive undergarments that quietly provide important shape and structure but do not intrude unduly into the way the narrative hangs. That said, a host of ideas have profoundly influenced my thinking and many are present in the making of this dissertation, in my ways of ordering and writing, just as much as in the text. Inevitably, I had to be selective about the directions I pursued. While I discuss the early industrial applications of refrigeration as a precursor to its household use, I chose to concentrate upon domestic refrigeration and to touch only very lightly upon contemporary commercial or industrial contexts. Likewise, although I trace the development of the mechanical refrigerator in order to chart its progress into the home, my purpose is not to explore detailed questions of design (though see Nickles 2002; Forty 1992; Parr 1999). I 15  make no attempt to try to cover marketing or advertising in any comprehensive way, though various examples of advertisements do make their way into these pages. Manufacture is another important area I allude to only briefly. This was mainly because most refrigerators in Britain are now imported. Production has shifted to Turkey, Eastern Europe and, increasingly, China, which would obviously have limited the scope for me to visit manufacturers to see the production process ‘live.’ By choosing to focus my attention ‘downstream’ instead, upon the later stages in a product’s life, I was able to see the processes of repair, recycling and disposal at first hand in workshops, scrap yards and recycling facilities. I also saw some merit in exploring these messier and less ‘glamorous’ dimensions of an object’s lifecycle, as these tend to receive less attention in the social sciences than do manufacture, marketing or design. I began at home, in the kitchen. A rich, intriguing and ‘stretchy’ space (Buttimer 1980; Massey 1992), my understandings of constructions of home and domesticity and the histories of the kitchen were shaped heavily by Hayden (1985), Cieraad (1999 & 2002), Llewellyn (2002 & 2004), Henderson (1996), Freeman (2004) and Blunt & Dowling (2006). The politics of home are complicated. It is a place with which many people, particularly women, have an ambivalent relationship (Young 1997; Bowlby, Gregory & McKie 1997; Gurney 1997; Pratt 1999), for the ‘ideal’ of home as a site of ontological security, leisure and self-expression can coexist with an experience of it being oppressive, ‘unhomely’ or dangerous (Dupuis & Thorns 1998; Rybczynski 1986; Chapman & Hockey 1999; hooks 1990; Martin & Mohanty 1986; Honig 1994). Home is also a place of work. Although British kitchens are less the female preserve than they once were, the burden of labour is borne disproportionately by women (Oakley 1975; Strasser 1982; DeVault 1991; VanEvery 1997). Even where men and children are active participants in shopping, cooking, cleaning and organising, overall responsibility for domestic order still falls principally to women (Munro & Madigan, 1999; Kaufman 1998). Martens and Scott (2004, p. 36) observe that “female respondents use the ‘I’ word, implying that whilst they may not necessarily be the only ones to do kitchen tasks, they speak according to a cultural understanding that they are ultimately responsible for it.” Part of the reason is that, unlike men, women often locate their  16  gender identity in household labour above paid work, making caring work crucial to the ideological construction of femininity (DeVault, 1991; Silva 1999). Domestic spaces, traditionally gendered feminine, are increasingly filled with or, as Terry and Calvert (1997) would say, ‘saturated’ with technologies (Cowan 1985b; Giedeon 1948; Silverstone & Hirsch 1992). Gender and technology are relational categories co-produced through making and using technologies (Wajcman 1991; Cockburn & Ormrod 1993; Cockburn & Fürst Dilić 1994; Fürst 1997; Lohan 2000; Silva 2000). De Lauretis (1987) theorises gender as a technology that produces and simultaneously naturalises difference, ordering relations into hierarchically unequal categories. As a ‘grammatical’ distinction between categories, gendering occurs to objects, spaces and ideas as much as to women and men (Franklin, Lury & Stacey 2000, p. 1, cited in Jacobs & Nash, 2003, pp. 268–269). It was to the objects and technologies in people’s homes that I felt especially drawn and, therefore, to studies looking at the changing roles and values of things as they are appropriated into daily life (Silverstone 1994; Lally 2002). The material culture of home is a dimension of material culture studies whose profile has been raised in recent years, for example by Daniel Miller and the contributors to two edited collections (Miller 1998 and 2001; see also Attfield 2000, Pink 2004), as well as by the launch of the journal Home Cultures. My interests in engaging with, analysing and following material things led me to a growing literature on ‘things’ and to the work of Appadurai (1986) on the ‘social lives’ of things, Kopytoff (1986) on the ‘biographies’ of things, Csikszentmihalyi and RochbergHalton (1981) on the meanings of things, Jackson (1999) on the traffic in things, Cook (2004) on following things, Kingery (1996) on learning from things, Attfield (2000) on ‘wild’ things, Straw (1999) on the “thingishness” of things and Brown (2001) on ‘thing theory.’ In many respects, my research keeps returning to questions about how we use, accommodate, domesticate and live with things. Daily life can be regarded as a kind of dance, at once facilitated and constrained by a scaffolding of material objects. These are things-in-motion, hence I frame my study around a variety of journeys, ranging from transatlantic shipments to more modest manoeuvring of foods and kitchenwares.  17  Analyses of objects and commodities frequently focus more upon their meanings, or upon moments of acquisition or appropriation, and less upon their ongoing use or, still less, their divestment. While domestication is certainly a critical dimension of my discussion (Lie & Sorensen 1996; Cockburn & Fürst-Dilić 1994; Pantzar 1997), I do not want to overlook the later stages of objects’ lifecycles as they are used, reused, repaired, recycled and destroyed. Just as Oakley (2002, p. 100-1) notes “the ‘compulsory’ nature of housework … [and] the unremitting obligation to do it or see that it gets done,” so Graham and Thrift (2007) analyse the “remorseless and necessary,” work of maintenance and repair more broadly. Material infrastructures are never fixed and stable entities but are subject to continuous interventions to maintain and mend them. Repair work is a major economic activity, the “engine room of modern economies and societies” even (Graham & Thrift 2007, p.19). Nevertheless, it tends to remain hidden and gets overlooked in most social analyses (some notable exceptions being Downey’s (1998) and Orr’s (1996) ethnographies of engineers and repair technicians), hence these scholars’ motivation to “surface the invisible work” (Star 1999, p. 385). Graham and Thrift see these activities as integral to the Heideggerian notion of the world being ‘ready-to-hand,’ for “they are the main means by which the constant decay of the world is held off”; they are what constantly remake the world and keep it ‘ready’ (Graham & Thrift 2007, p. 1). What tends to remains invisible too “is that most consumption, and particularly routine everyday consumption … is also about replacing things, about getting rid of other things, about casting them out and abandoning them” (Gregson 2006, p. 6; see also Douglas 1966; O’Brien 1999; Marcoux 2001; Lucas 2002; Hawkins and Muecke 2003; Hetherington 2004). As part of this study, I ask how to fix a fridge that does not work and follow fridges that are thrown away to see the journey that they take through cycles of repair, into the waste stream, onto the scrap heap and beyond. In doing so, my ideas are informed by Thompson’s fascinating analysis of the mobility of objects into – but also out of – the category of ‘waste’ in Rubbish Theory (1979), Strasser’s social history of trash (2000), Gregson’s work on ‘ridding’ (2006) and accounts by DeSilvey (2006) and Edensor (2005) of objects, buildings and landscapes subject to the process of decay. My research is partly motivated by Latour’s admonishment not to overlook the ‘missing masses,’ those ‘humble’ nonhuman actant-artifacts with which we co-produce our social  18  world (1992). It also shares with the creators of The Journal of Mundane Behavior (Schaffer 2000) an impulse to attend to the ‘unmarked,’ the quotidian, the banal and everyday. To Latour’s mind, knowledge is not a property of humans but of “humans accompanied by their retinue of delegated characters. Since each of those delegates ties together a part of our social world, it means that studying social relations without the nonhumans is impossible” (Johnson aka Latour 1988, p. 310). For insights into the use of objects in the daily ‘doings’ of domestic life, I looked to analyses of practice. Schatzki et al (2001) comment on a turn to practice, which is, in many ways, also a turn to everyday life. In their investigation of living and cooking in The Practice of Everyday Life (1994), de Certeau, Giard and Mayol focus not just upon ‘operations’ but also upon their ‘sequences’ and ‘phrasing.’ Bourdieu sees practice as “inseparable from temporality” (Bourdieu 1989, p. 81-2) but, given that action is always situated, arguably practices must also be inseparable from spatiality; indeed, de Certeau et al describe practices as “spatial stories” (1994, p. xxxii). They conceptualise these ‘ways of operating,’ as creative, opportunistic and ‘tactical’ in nature. Practice is also central to Giddens’ theory of structuration for it proposes that at the heart of the social sciences “is neither the experience of the individual actor, nor the existence of any form of social totality, but social practices ordered across space and time” (Giddens 1984, p. 2). In turning to theories that treat practices as the ‘smallest unit’ of social analysis, Reckwitz (2002) observes that other kinds of cultural theory pay scant attention to implicit, tacit and unconscious levels of knowledge. He explains: A practice (Praktik) is a routinized type of behaviour which consists of several elements, interconnected to one other: forms of bodily activities, forms of mental activities, ‘things’ and their use, a background knowledge in the form of understanding, know-how, states of emotion and motivational knowledge. … The single individual – as a bodily and mental agent – then acts as the ‘carrier’ (Träger) of a practice … Thus, she or he is not only a carrier of patterns of bodily behaviour, but also of certain routinized ways of understanding, knowing how and desiring. … The practice as a ‘nexus of doings and sayings’ (Schatzki) … is thus a routinized way in which bodies are moved, objects are handled, subjects are treated, things are described and the world is understood (Reckwitz 2002, p. 249-50).  Crucially, therefore, practice involves routinised bodily activities and mental activities, as well as the use of objects in certain ways. Knowledge comes in many shapes and sizes. Polyani (1967, p. 4) observes that “we can know more than we can tell” and draws out key distinctions between ‘codified’ (or what he 19  termed ‘explicit’)12 and ‘tacit’ knowledges. Codified knowledges are typically formal and abstract, associated with practices of enumeration, calculation and regulation, and with institutions like ‘the state’ or ‘science.’ Tacit knowledges, in contrast, are not readily captured in linguistic form, nor easily conveyed in written symbols on the page. Associated with ‘know-how’ and more easily known through doing than through telling, they appear to lack a framework of reason and abstraction and, as a consequence, risk being discounted as something other than ‘knowledge.’ If pressed, most people would acknowledge that there are multiple ways to ‘know’ the world, but, like putting on well-worn conceptual slippers, it is easy to slip comfortably into what Foucault would term a cognitive discourse of knowledge. It is not that we are all trapped unwillingly within this discourse or left “unable to think outside of its parameters; rather it is just easier to think with such a discourse than about it,” to inhabit it, rather than reflect upon it (Allen 2000, p. 18). Other modes of knowledge get overshadowed by its apparent ‘obviousness’ and our expectations about what we think knowledge should look like shapes where we expect to find it. We do not, for instance, routinely see the home as a site of innovation or knowledge-making, or, for that matter, the refrigerator. In this study, I am interested in things like scientific papers, instruction manuals, patents and explanatory diagrams, but also in more embodied and habitual knowledges and practices picked up through repetition or learned ‘at Mother’s knee.’ But even as we try to separate them, categories of knowledge stubbornly tangle. Laboratory ethnographies have carefully drawn out the ways that both codified and tacit knowledges underlie the making of science (Lynch 1985; Latour & Woolgar 1986; Traweek 1988). In formal learning environments, much may be picked up informally, for scientists, physicians and the like learn from watching and intuiting too, even if they are positioned at what we might regard as ‘Supervisor’s Shoulder’ rather than Mother’s knee. People are consummate ‘bricoleurs,’ readily piecing together different kinds of knowledge in their daily lives. Scholars such as 12 I prefer the terminology ‘codified’ and ‘tacit’ knowledge, and take these to be broadly equivalent to Thrift’s (1985) ‘empirical’ and ‘practical’ knowledges and Power’s (2000) ‘book knowledge’ and ‘body knowledge.’ I remain hesitant about just how explicit we can assume ‘explicit’ knowledges to be, or for whom, and wary that the term implies these knowledges spring forth pre-formed in some kind of inherently clear form; that knowledge is ‘codified,’ on the other hand, hints that it has actively been rendered into a certain form.  20  Keller (1985) and Haraway (1988) have demonstrated the gendered, classed, raced and otherwise ‘situated’ nature of knowledge and, as Barnes (2003) demonstrates in his analysis of histories of economic geographies, even abstract theoretical knowledges can be profoundly shaped by the spatial and temporal contexts in which they were produced. In terms of how knowledges then circulate, they rely upon a range of intermediaries, both human and nonhuman. Common understanding is that tacit knowledges do not travel well because of their reliance upon co-presence and mutual interaction. Tacit knowledges can be thought of as residing in a distributed sense within the body (Power 2000). As somewhat fleshy, many-tendrilled things, they can be difficult to gather up neatly and relocate, for such knowledge gets disrupted in the absence of contextual cues. Codified knowledges, meanwhile, are easier to unbuckle from one location and move elsewhere, as in the case of written texts, which make learning-at-a-distance possible. However, coding and decoding can themselves be heavily contextual, meaning that codified knowledge does not always arrive unmarked by its journey. As every good flight attendant reminds us when opening the overhead luggage compartments, we must take care because the contents are liable to have shifted while in transit. Our mobiles are not always as immutable as they appear (de Laet 2000), hence Allen, among others, refers to the ‘translation’ of knowledge, rather than its ‘transmission’ (2000, p. 27-8). Secord describes the history of knowledge as being, in many ways, a history of circulating practices (2004). He considers the turn to studying practice, and to approaching knowledge as a form of practice, to be one of the more significant transition in recent decades because, “most fundamentally, it broke down the distinctions between words and things, between texts, books, instruments and images” (2004, p.658). This leads me to Pantzar and Shove’s ‘choreographies of practice’ and their attempts, in recent years, to produce an integrative theory of practice. They see ‘materials,’ ‘images’ and ‘skills’ as the three main components from which practices are composed and argue that the ‘careers’ of practices, that is, the ways in which practices come into being, persist or disappear, depend upon relationship between these three ingredients. Shove (2002) emphasises that practices do not neatly ‘stabilise’ so much as continue to de- or re-stabilise. She analyses how novel systems of practice become normal, arguing that the notion of ‘normality,’ and the way it varies over time and among  21  different social groups, is critical to understanding practice. Although practices can become fairly established and customary procedures can be adhered to unreflexively, practices remain dynamic nonetheless. Conventions get contested and practitioners are liable to improvise and experiment, meaning that practices always contain within themselves the possibility for change and innovation (Warde 2005). Amongst a range of alternative cooling and preservation methods, mechanical refrigeration emerged as a new practice and, whilst formerly widespread practices like home-bottling have declined, the refrigerator won sufficient adherents for its ‘career’ to build momentum and see it become an integral part of most British homes.  White box, black box The refrigerator has stabilised as one of a suite of ‘normal’ kitchen appliances, along with things like washing machines, cookers and, more recently, microwave ovens. All fall under the designation of ‘white goods,’ irrespective of whether they are actually diamond white, harvest gold, stainless steel or bubblegum pink. In contrast to other kitchen appliances, from which things emerge variously cleaned, baked, toasted, blended or otherwise transformed, the fridge is unusual in that its job is keeping things the same. Early on in my research I became aware of a common perception that a fridge does not really seem to do much. It is frequently regarded (at least in the case of those fridges not yet reborn with the ability to make music, check email or orchestrate the actions of other household appliances) as little more than a glorified cupboard. Interviewees commented that, after all, a fridge does not take much skill to use, so long as one has the basic dexterity to open the door and move things in and out. Rarely needing even to be switched on or off, it makes few demands upon its users’ attention but just sits there keeping cold and sometimes humming to itself. The raison d’être of the refrigerator is to hold foods in a cold embrace so as to slow their journey into degradation and decay. As such, it generates interesting tensions between processes of ‘preservation’ and ‘transformation.’ I became intrigued by the contradictions between its apparent passivity, its static nature, it role of simply holding things, and the work that goes on within it hidden out of sight and I go on in Chapter 2 to investigate the nature of 22  this work and show how the operation of a refrigerator is much more dynamic, and its effects much more far-reaching, than its outward appearance might suggest. Creating cold is a complex and ongoing achievement. The refrigeration mechanism runs twenty-four hours a day, making continual adjustments to maintain a consistent temperature. And it seems that even holding might not be as straightforward as it looks. As my research involved many different kinds of containers – from refrigerators and ice boxes to archive boxes, cargo holds, museums, pistons, pipes and tubes, houses, trucks and shopping bags – I read Zoë Sofia’s work on ‘container technologies’ (2000) with considerable interest. She directs attention to the habit of conceptualising containers as passive and feminised receptacles. “We take for granted containers and the resources they supply; they are merely spaces to get stuff out of or put stuff into” (Sofia 2000, p. 185). Mumford argues for the importance of those devices and utensils that perform roles of holding, protecting and preserving: Cooking, milking, dyeing, tanning, brewing, gardening are, historically, female occupations: all derive from handling the vital processes of fertilization, growth, and decay, or the life-arresting processes of sterilization and preservation. All these functions … are inconceivable without baskets, pots, bins, vats [and] barns. … We tend to devaluate all these stabilising processes: even our containers, from the drinking cup to the recorder tape, are meant to be as transitory as the materials they contain (1966, p. 140-1).  Usually unobtrusive and often associated with women’s work, such objects rarely feature in our histories of technology, prompting Sofia to set about recasting ‘containing’ as an active process. She draws upon Heidegger’s writings on ‘holding’ and ‘supply.’ In his essay on ‘The Thing,’ Heidegger talks about a jug and how “the emptiness, the void, is what does the vessel’s holding” (1971, p. 169). The making of a jug is therefore less about the shaping of materials than it is about the fashioning of a space. The refrigerator performs a twofold task of holding. It is a box of sorts and as such performs the work of containing those things placed within its interior. By its action of cooling, it also endeavours to hold them in a state of arrested decay. Both are active rather than passive states of holding. My interviewees were familiar with the cabinet’s ‘void’ and how it could be used, but, when I asked, most had little inkling about how the cooling mechanism worked. Few felt the need to know how a refrigerator worked, what mattered was that it did. The refrigeration unit was 23  taken to be a rather mysterious device that managed to keep things cold, almost as if by ‘magic.’ It had been ‘black boxed.’ As Latour explains in Pandora’s Box, “the word black box is used by cyberneticians whenever a piece of machinery or a set of commands is too complex. In its place they draw a little box about which they need to know nothing but its input and output” (1999, p. 2-3). Understanding the principles of refrigeration may be helpful, but it is not a prerequisite for putting things in the fridge or taking them out again. Thrift points out that along with knowing come various forms of ‘unknowing,’ which affect the knowledges available to be thought with. He identifies five kinds (1985, p. 369-71). Knowledge may be ‘unknown,’ meaning it is not present or accessible and therefore impossible for people to have in a given space or time. An example would be the notion of ‘germs’ prior to germ theory, which I discuss in Chapter 4. Alternatively, knowledge might be available but not understood because it falls beyond one’s experience or frame of reference. Ideas may be too complex for someone to grasp without training in a specific field, or might represent too much of a disjuncture from one’s current system of belief to be comprehensible. Unknowing also arises if knowledges are deliberately hidden or distorted, or if taken-for-granted knowledges remain undiscussed, which helps conceal the nature of their construction. For Latour, “buying a machine without question or believing a fact without question has the same consequences: it strengthens the case of whatever is bought or believed, it makes it more of a black box” (Latour 1999, p. 29). A number of interviewees confessed their lack of knowledge guiltily, believing it was something that they really ought to know. Some even felt the need to promise me they would go away and learn, despite my assurances that it did not bother me remotely whether they knew or not. It was clear that knowing how to use something and knowing how it works can be quite different things. I wanted to know both. Latour’s approach to studying science is to get there before the box closes to see “facts and machines while they are in the making” and watch how black boxes get made and closed and strengthened (1999, p. 13-15). When sufficient weight is mobilised in their support, ‘facts’ are created and the social and geographical specificity of their creation gets erased. It becomes easy to forget that there was a period of uncertainty or contestation before the  24  matter was settled, for “the original discovery … [gets] incorporated into tacit knowledge with no mark of its having been produced by anyone” (1999, p. 43). Part of my aim in this dissertation is to open up the black box drawn around this white box to gain a better understanding of not just what goes into and what comes out of a refrigerator, but also what goes on inside. I am interested in the combinations of materials, knowledges, efforts and beliefs from which the fridge is built, as well as the acts of closure that made it the shape it is. Maintaining closure is, as Hand & Shove (2007) point out, an ongoing process. I visit the refrigerator ‘in the making’ and follow it into the home to see the roles it played in daily lives and practices. But more than that, I want try to produce an account capable of combining a diverse range of objects, ideas, registers and scales. Mitchell talks of technopolitics as “an alloy that must emerge from a process of manufacture whose ingredients are both human and nonhuman, both intentional and not, and in which the intentional or the human is always somewhat overrun by the unintended” (Mitchell 2002, p. 42-3). While he brings analyses of war, famine, epidemics, dams and fertilizers together in an account that is at once “hydraulic, chemical, military, political, etiological, and mechanical” (2002, p. 27), my interest is in elucidating relationships between refrigerators, knowledges and practices by creating explanatory stories out of milk bottles, microbes, fridge magnets and Freon, Antarctic expeditions and supermarket shopping, germs and ice, beef and electricity, international diplomacy, limp lettuce and chilled dainties.  FRIDGE TALK, TEXTS AND TEA My research roamed through many places and could perhaps be regarded as a mobile ‘multiscaled’ and ‘multi-sited ethnography’ (Jacobs 2006; Marcus 1995; Hannerz 2003). The earlier and more historical section of my dissertation makes use of archival material, the middle section is more heavily interview based and the end draws upon a mixture of policy analysis and participant observation. I carried out 32 interviews in the course of this research. Eleven were what could be categorised as ‘workplace’ interviews, on the basis that I contacted the individuals in question because of their involvement with refrigerators in a professional capacity. The other 21 were ‘household’ interviews, where I set out to learn more about people’s domestic practices and refrigerator use and how these had changed over 25  the course of their lives. The majority of my interviews took place in people’s homes, the result being that I sat in many kitchens and I drank a lot of tea, much like Daniel Miller who, reflecting on his experience of doing ethnographic research in Britain, commented that “it would be difficult to research domestic consumption … if you weren’t fond of tea” (Miller 1997, p. 14). I could not help but smile as it dawned on me how swiftly Britain’s rituals of hospitality lead to an open fridge; I was routinely offered tea or coffee as soon as I arrived in someone’s home, along with milk fetched from the fridge. One unexpected difficulty I have is defining where the ‘workplace’ interviews end and ‘household’ interviews begin. There is a lot of fraying at the edges of these categories, not least because, for many people ‘home’ is simultaneously a place of work. In addition, two of my ‘household’ interviews took place outside the home. I arranged to interview Tony Hawks in a café, ostensibly to discuss his book (1998), but because we talked at length about his domestic arrangements and the ways in which he negotiated the refrigerator as a space shared with two lodgers, I have included this as a ‘household’ interview. On the other hand, although I did interview Tim Hunkin in his home, I regard this as a ‘workplace’ interview because our discussion concentrated on the technology of refrigeration, the domestic appliance gallery he designed for the Science Museum and the television series called The Secret Life of Machines that he made in the late 1980s and early 1990s.13 In addition, during my discussions with people in a work context, many shared their own refrigerator stories – childhood memories of first getting a refrigerator, recollections of their parents’ and grandparents’ kitchens or accounts of how their shopping and eating habits have changed – illustrating how hard it can be to neatly cordon off domestic spaces or practices from other spheres of people’s lives. Access to my first interviewees came via the Science Museum in London, through which I was able to make contact with individuals who had donated or offered refrigerators to the museum’s domestic technology collection in the past few years. It did not prove possible to 13 The Secret Life of Machines was shown in Britain on Channel 4, and subsequently on the Discovery Channel. Each programme investigated a particular machine and The Refrigerator was one of the six covered in the first series, broadcast in 1988. A second series aired in 1991 and a third in 1993. The programmes can be viewed online at http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/SLOM/.  26  trace early donors, due to the time that had elapsed, but I was able to interview the three most recent, all of whom were delighted that their refrigerators had aroused the interest of a researcher. The first was Dorothy Ladd, who had been hopeful that her 1959 Kelvinator would find a home in the collection. To her great disappointment, after visiting her home to view the refrigerator, the museum’s Curator explained that, unfortunately, he would have to decline her offer because space constraints for storage of large objects meant that only the strongest cases for new acquisitions now received approval. I interviewed Dorothy the following week and she was the one interviewee I met with twice, for I visited her again the following summer to find out the fate of the fridge and to meet its replacement. Next, I talked with Fred and Marianne Emery about their large American 1960s Whirlpool fridge (discussed in detail in Chapter 6), which they donated to the museum in 2000, and then with Ruth Hägen, whose eye-catching bright red 1952 Electrolux was in transit to the museum’s store at the time we spoke. My interviews were not intended to be a ‘representative’ sample. I was interested in talking to people from diverse social, cultural and economic backgrounds, but I made the decision early on in the project to focus in particular on people with ‘pre-fridge’ memories who would be able to reflect upon the changes in household technologies and domestic practices within their lifetimes. As such, my interviewees are quite deliberately skewed towards an older age range. Participants ranged in age from their late 20s to their mid 80s but two thirds were 50 years or older and half were over 60. I set about actively recruiting older participants in two main ways. First, I contacted an organisation called Age Exchange, which runs a ‘Reminiscence Centre’ in Blackheath, in southeast London (http://www.ageexchange.org.uk/centre/).14 There, I was able to do a joint interview with Gwen Wiseman  14 Age Exchange was founded in 1983 and the Reminiscence Centre in Blackheath opened four years later. It operates as a resource centre, the headquarters for British and European Reminiscence networks, a museum of early-mid 20th century daily life, a gallery with changing exhibitions, a community centre with a busy social, cultural and educational programme and the base for a professional theatre company called ‘The Memory Makers.’ Promoting the therapeutic value of reminiscence work, the Centre aims to reduce social isolation by bringing older people together in reminiscence-based creative activities and to enhance their quality of life of by valuing their memories and life stories. One important facet of the Centre’s role is its work with dementia patients. Because those with dementia are often able to access their long-term memories, Age Exchange offers training in reminiscence skills for professionals, carers and family members as a way to  27  and Iris O’Neill, two volunteers at the Centre. My early interviewees were based mostly in the London area so I wanted to complement these with interviews carried out elsewhere. I approached the editor of a parish newsletter in a village in Norfolk, in the east of England, whom I knew to be active in gathering local history. I anticipated that he might know of older people locally who would be willing to participate. He was able to recruit three sets of interviewees on my behalf from a rural area and a nearby town: Geoff and Nancy Bauer, Jonathan and Doreen Knight and Ronnie Porter. I then approached Betty Wood, who had lived her entire life not far from the place where I grew up. Her husband had worked as a farm hand and she had worked as a cleaner for a local farmer and I was interested in interviewing her because I knew that the couple had lived for many years in a virtually unmodernised farm cottage. Recruiting my other interviewees was partly strategic and partly opportunistic. I made use of a range of social networks, my own and other people’s. For instance, as well as interviewing Lisa Cooper, I arranged to interview the Ghanaian family who lived in the flat above. On another occasion, I was staying with a friend in London because she lived conveniently close to the National Archives. Her husband is in the armed forces and they live in housing provided by the Ministry of Defence. On hearing more about my project, she promptly took me to visit a family friend, Abigail Rowles, who has a highly unusual corner larder fridge. She also introduced me to her new neighbours, the Bashirs, a couple in the Pakistani Air Force living in Britain temporarily for a year and renting all their household goods, including their refrigerator. Someone else suggested interviewing Maggie and Simon Marsh because she worked full-time and he stayed home as a ‘househusband’ (though, unfortunately, he was unable to participate in the interview at the time I visited). While I did approach some interviewees because their domestic situation or their connections with refrigerators was unusual in some way, I talked to most people precisely because there was nothing outwardly remarkable about their homes or habits or their refrigerator use.  enhance communication. Material culture plays a central role in stimulating peoples’ memories and the Centre contains displays of familiar household objects, books and clothing, wartime memorabilia and a reconstruction of a 1930s shop. These objects also act as a social history resource to educate younger people about social and economic change and Age Exchange runs ‘Living History’ workshops with schools and colleges to enhance inter-generational understanding.  28  In addition to my conversations with fridge users, I thought it would be useful to speak to some people who did not have a fridge. Identifying such people proved to be the most challenging component of my research. I was not sure the best place to begin to track down the very small percentage of the British population without one so started in a rather ad hoc way by asking friends and colleagues if they knew of anyone without a fridge. I drew a blank. This was disappointing, but quite revealing in itself. I decided to switch tack and focus on approaching Health Visitors,15 on the basis that they were members of a profession who would have first-hand knowledge of their clients’ living arrangements. I contacted a few in the area of London where I was staying temporarily, which I knew to have a high number of refugee claimants, to see whether it might be possible to talk with a family newly arrived in Britain who were living without the kinds of household equipment most people took for granted. Unfortunately, the health visitors I approached were too weighed down with their own caseloads to help me, thought that language barriers would pose a problem or did perhaps not feel comfortable passing on my request. It was eventually through a health visitor that I found my first fridgeless family, though not in quite the way I had expected. I got in touch with one in rural Norfolk, imagining that she might know of some elderly farming couple still resolutely living without modern appliances. Instead, by happy accident, her son happened to be dating the daughter of a family who lived, by choice, without a fridge and who were more than happy to speak with me. My second fridge-free interviewee was with someone I had met through mutual friends some years before. I recalled that as a student he had lived in a ‘bender,’ a self-built dwelling in the woods with no electricity, so reasoned that was unlikely to have had a fridge during this time. When I contacted him to ask about this period, I was delighted to discover that that although he now had a young family and lived in a somewhat more conventional house, he still did not have a fridge. I therefore managed to interview two families without refrigerators, as well as Dorothy Ladd, who happened to have been ‘between fridges’ for a month or so at the time I visited.  15 A health visitor is a registered nurse who has received additional training in primary health care and community nursing. A major part of their role involves visiting people in their homes, such as new mothers or those suffering from chronic illness, and they often work closely with at-risk groups.  29  Most interviewees’ initial response to my research was a mixture of surprise and amusement, close followed by curiosity. Few had previously given their fridge much thought and, even if they thought my topic a little peculiar, I was struck by the enthusiasm with which they engaged in ‘fridge talk.’ In much the same way that Gullestad noted that “when interviewing people about their house, one quickly discovers that talking about houses often involves telling a life story” (1997, p. 51), so I found that most interviewees seemed to thoroughly enjoy talking about their refrigerators because doing so meant talking about their lives, their childhood memories, their families, their daily routines, their favourite foods, their tastes and aspirations and, from time to time, their spouse’s irritating habits. Not all of my approaches were successful, however.16 I had been excited to notice a small refrigeration repair business operating out of a house on the street adjacent to where I was staying in south London. It seemed ideal. I had it all planned – I would be able to spend time watching the work that went on in their workshop and could also be there with just a few minutes notice when they had call outs. I was very disappointed when I contacted the company and they turned down my request to carry out research with them. Eventually, I interviewed another electrical engineer, Mike McFadyen who did refrigerator repairs. My conversations with him provided insights critical to the direction this dissertation took and I learned a lot from him about the business of repair. My only regret was that although he told me fascinating stories about going to repair appliances in people’s homes, the timing of his schedule and my research trips always ended up precluding me from accompanying him on any home visits. My 21 household interviews (20 in person and one by telephone) involved 30 people (21 women and 9 men)17 and represent a total of 22 households, because at the Blackheath Reminiscence Centre I interviewed two friends together. Eight of the interviews were with 16 During a spell of fieldwork in London, I could not help noticing that one house I passed by each day on the way to the station had a fridge-freezer standing outside the front door for some weeks. I dropped a letter through their door explaining my research and asking if I might talk to them about where this fridge was headed and about the new one I suspected had taken its place inside. I called back on a number of occasions to see if they would be willing to participate, but although I was convinced I saw the curtains twitch, no one answered the door. I took that as a no. 17 Although younger children were occasionally present, I did not formally include children in the interviews.  30  couples (7 heterosexual couples and 1 lesbian couple), 12 were with women (2 single, 5 widowed and 5 who participated without their partners) and 2 were with men (1 single and 1 widowed). In two cases, I spoke with women and their mothers: following my interview with Lisa, I then carried out a phone interview with her mother, Janet, who had expressed interest in participating in the project; when I visited Ruth Hägen, her mother, Mona, happened to be visiting from Canada and joined in for part of the conversation. The 22 households included 13 couples, 5 with dependent children, 7 single-person households, plus one single man and one single woman who each shared their homes with lodgers. Most of my interviewees were owner-occupiers but two lived in rented local authority housing, one rented from a private landlord and one lived in military housing. My interviewees included one black family, originally from Ghana, and one Asian couple, who had previously lived in Pakistan. The remainder were white and included one Swede and two Canadians. One of the women I interviewed was registered disabled and one of the men was suffering from a terminal illness. In my analysis, age and gender are the variables upon which I focus most attention, followed, to a lesser degree by class. I briefly touch upon some of the differences interviewees observed from having grown up in different countries and sociocultural contexts, but, although there are potentially interesting intersections between people’s domestic practices and other axes of identity, such as sexuality or whether or not they are able-bodied, these lie beyond the scope of this particular study. I carried out in-depth, semi-structured interviews, all recorded, with the exception of the one telephone interview. Where quotations in the text are not otherwise attributed, they are extracts from my own interviews. I introduce interviewees using full names but, on the basis that I generally refer to them by first name thereafter, I have listed interviewees alphabetically by first name in Appendix A for ease of reference. Most interviewees have been given pseudonyms; however, there are a few individuals I have not anonymised because they could be considered ‘public figures’ who have presented on television and published books under their own names. As this was part of my reason for interviewing them, I have not attempted to conceal their identities.  31  As well as conducting my own interviews, I also made use of the national collection of oral histories held in the British Library’s Sound Archive. My principal source was the ‘Millennium Memory Bank’ (MMB), which contains recordings of interviews with 6,000 Britons of all backgrounds who, in the lead up to 2000, reflected on how life had changed during  their  lifetime  (http://www.bl.uk/collections/sound-archive/millenni.html).18  Interviews covered sixteen main themes and my interests lay in those portions concerned with ‘house and home,’ ‘growing up,’ ‘eating and drinking’ and ‘technology.’ A search of the interview summaries enabled me to identify those in which interviewees talked at length about changing practices of cooking, shopping and eating, new domestic technologies and, in a number of instances, refrigerators specifically. I also drew from one of the National Life Stories Collections (NLSC) called ‘Food: From Source to Salespoint’ (FFSS), which interviewed people working in food production, distribution and retail. I cite from 13 of these oral histories, using (MMB) and (FFSS) respectively to indicate where the material is held. I listened to the original recordings of about half of these interviews and worked from detailed transcripts of the remainder. Full details are provided in Appendix B. As in Appendix A, individuals are listed alphabetically by first name; however, because these oral history interviews are in the public domain, I do not use pseudonyms. Although there are certain challenges in making use of interviews conducted by other people, these are lessened somewhat in this instance by being able to listen to the original recordings. The MMB and NLSC represent a valuable resource because they give access to far more interview data than it would have been possible for me to gather alone. In addition, it was helpful in enabling me to supplement my interviews with a broader range of working class perspectives, for instance, from participants who had formerly been employed in domestic service. In addition to Tim Hunkin and Mike McFadyen, mentioned above, my ‘workplace’ interviews included discussions with Andrew Ellis, the Curator of the Science Museum’s domestic technology collection, Thomas Driver, the Head of Collections, and Jason Arlington, a member of the team responsible for overseeing the reserve collection held off 18 The Millennium Memory Bank is one of the largest oral history projects to have been conducted. In 1999, the British Library worked in collaboration with local BBC radio stations across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to gather oral histories, with the intention of creating a ‘sound map’ of the century.  32  site in the Museum’s Large Object Store. I spent a couple of months based in the Science Museum over the course of two summers, principally to do archive work, but I also had the opportunity to spend time informally with curatorial and gallery staff while I was there. I made a series of visits to Respond, a charitable organisation in southeast London that collects, refurbishes and sells unwanted furniture and appliances. My time here involved a combination of interviews and participant observation. As well as conducting interviews with Henry Drake and Shaun Carter, the Chair and Business Development Manager, I also spent a day out on the van with Rod and Jacko, one of the teams collecting donations, and another day in the workshop talking with Doug Mansley and watching him as he tested and repaired electrical appliances. I interviewed Ian Staunton, Waste Manager at Greenwich Council, and Carl Aspin, Operations Manager at EMR’s fridge recycling plant in London, but the need to move around the site and the noise of the machinery precluded me from taping these conversations so I relied upon ethnographic fieldnotes (Emerson, Fretz and Shaw 1985). As well as interviewing Alan Cooper, a refrigeration engineer and author of The World Below Zero: a history of refrigeration in the UK (Cooper 1997), and Brian Williams, Technical Product Manager at LG Electronics, I visited a couple of trade shows and exhibitions – the Ideal Home Exhibition and ‘Stuff! The Gadget Show,’ both in Wembley, London – which gave me an opportunity to learn more about contemporary trends in appliances and kitchen design. In terms of sources for archival material, I made use of the Science Museum Library and Archives, based next door at the University of London’s Imperial College. Some of the refrigerator handbooks dating from the 1920s to the 1950s, which I discuss in Chapter 4, came from the Science Museum files relating to particular models in its collection; others were held in the British Library, the New York Public Library or the University Library at Cornell. The Wellcome Trust Library in London proved to be a good resource for materials on health, cooking and food safety and the Women’s Library in East London held some useful material, on the Electrical Association for Women. I visited the History of Advertising Trust in Norfolk and, in Brighton, spent time in the Design Council Archive and the  Mass-Observation  Archive  (MOA),  housed  at  the  University  of  Sussex  (www.massobs.org.uk). The MOA contains the papers of the Mass-Observation social  33  research organisation dating from the 1930s to the 1950s, as well as material about everyday life in Britain collected since the 1980s. One of my most fortuitous finds came in the shape of Jenny Webb, a former Appliance Demonstrator and Home Economist who had spent her entire career in the electricity industry. I visited her at her home in London and interviewed her about her professional experience and her own domestic practices. As well as blurring divisions between ‘household’ and ‘workplace’ interviews, the discovery that her personal papers represented probably the most useful collection of materials that I came across in the course of my research also worked to disrupt distinctions between ‘home’ and ‘archive.’ She generously kept me fuelled with tea and snacks as I made a second visit the following day to work through as many of her papers as I could before I had to leave to catch my flight. Subsequently, I was able to spend time at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, where I viewed the papers and photographs she had donated to the museum’s Electricity Council archive a couple of years before.  A BRIEF ROUTE MAP THROUGH THE DISSERTATION In chapter 2, I sketch out the trajectories of natural and artificial cooling practices. I look at the trade in natural ice, explore competing understandings of heat and cold, trace the means by which cold came to be ‘created’ artificially and consider how this contributed to the spatial reorganisation of Britain’s perishable food supply. Chapter 3 follows the journey of mechanical refrigeration into the home. I examine the infrastructures supporting first domestic ice use and then artificial methods of cooling. I pay particular attention to the role of the electrical industry in shaping the norms of domestic refrigeration in contemporary Britain and in mobilising women as ‘vectors’ of modernity. Chapter 4 focuses on refrigerator knowledges, the various ways in which those knowledges circulate, the new forms of knowledge that emerged with the adoption of refrigeration, as well as old forms that were displaced. Here, I argue that refrigerator use is not self-evident but relies upon a set of knowledges and practices that are learned. Chapter 5 examines practice in more detail and assesses ways that shopping, provisioning, cooking and eating were reconfigured with the 34  adoption of refrigeration. I explore ways in which the refrigerator is negotiated as a social space and gets appropriated in ways unconnected with its function of preserving food. I show that the refrigerator has been ‘normalised’ as an integral component of the kitchen to such a degree that although its introduction is relatively recent, few contemporary Britons would contemplate the idea of living without a fridge. Chapter 6 asks what happens when fridges fail. I consider practices of repairing and reusing refrigerators and follow them as they pass through the waste stream to see how they are disposed of. This chapter focuses in particular upon a national crisis in fridge disposal that emerged in 2002. I explore what happened when domestic refrigerators, usually thought of as ‘small’ and largely invisible appliances, strayed ‘out of place’ and got caught up in much ‘bigger stories’ (Jacobs 2006).  35  Chapter 2 Catching Cold: Histories of Natural and Artificial Cooling THE CONFECTIONERS’ PRECARIOUS COMMODITY In the third week of January 1822, a cold snap descended on Britain, which was warmly welcomed by the country’s confectioners. Had temperatures not dropped below 0°C long enough to form ice, the summer’s ice cream supplies would have been in jeopardy unless they resorted once more to the innovative but risky undertaking reported in The Times: The confectioners have been able to lay in a store of ice to freeze their creams in summer! If the frost had not favoured them last week, they might have been obliged to send, as heretofore, to the coast of Greenland for a cargo; but their last venture of that kind, six years ago, was, like every speculation in a slippery commodity, attended with such risk that it has made them averse from repeating the experiment (The Times 1822, p. 3).  Allegedly cleaved from an iceberg, harnessed in some fashion to a ship and towed to London, the article goes on to note that “the remnants of the precarious commodity were, in haste, distributed among the ice-houses in town.” As well as indicating that there were ice houses around London in which ice was stored until summer, and suggesting that the market for ice cream in 1816 was sizeable enough to warrant such an endeavour, this article is perhaps the earliest record of ice having been ‘imported’ into Britain. Most histories of the ice trade cite 1922 as the year in which ice was first imported but, although not strictly a formal trade between nations, arguably this 1816 venture represented the start of Britain procuring ice from beyond its own shores. Despite the freezing temperatures that eventually arrived in the January of 1822, this was the year that marked the start of a century-long ice trade with Norway. It seems that imports were initiated by English merchant William Leftwich, though trade got off to a somewhat faltering start (Fussell 1956, p.131). Blain’s Norwegian sources indicate that, much to Leftwich’s dismay, having set sail from Norway with a cargo of ice, by the time it reached London the ship was close to sinking and its contents almost all melted (Blain 2006, p. 1). Cooper reports a more successful landing of 36  Norwegian ice in London later that summer and, within a few years, ice had become a familiar cargo (1997, p. 2). In a letter written to a friend in 1828, Richard Trevithick (1771-1833), a British engineer who developed the high pressure steam engine, alluded to the growth in the ice trade in the intervening six years: A few days since I was in company where a person said that one hundred thousand per year was paid for ice, the greatest part of which was brought by ships for that express purpose from the Greenland 19 seas (Trevithick 1828, cited in Cooper 1997, p. 20).  His letter is particularly interesting because the next line goes on to envision that steam engines could be employed to power artificial refrigeration devices and so provide a way of creating cold mechanically without the need for ice: A thought struck me at that moment that artificial cold might be made very cheap by the power of steam engines, by compressing air in a condenser surrounded by water, and also an injection into the same so as to instantly cool down the very highly compressed air to the temperature of the surrounding air and then admitting it to escape into the liquid to be cooled. This would reduce the temperature to any rate of cold required.  Although the idea was not one he would pursue himself, Trevithick neatly captures here the principles upon which mechanical refrigeration was based, a method which would, as he predicted, eventually produce cold more cheaply and efficiently than physically transporting blocks of ice around the world. My purpose in this chapter is to unravel the story of this transition from harvesting and using natural ice for cooling, to making ice artificially and then to producing cold mechanically and, in doing so, to demonstrate how the refrigerator acted as a technology collapsing time and space. In the following chapter, I go on to explore how this method of making cold by machine moved into the home. Although my focus is on Britain, tracing the development of mechanical refrigeration necessarily leads us on a journey to Norway, the United States, India, Germany, France, South America, Australia and New Zealand and through periods 19 The letter was written to Davies Giddy (later Gilbert), a fellow engineer and President of the Royal Society from 1827 to 1830.  37  from the seventeenth century to the present day. After exploring the complexities of moving ice, and the great lengths to which people went to acquire frozen water, I then go on to consider the complexities of moving heat, for it is the ability to manipulate its movement through a system that lies at the heart of refrigeration. I trace the evolution of competing theories about heat and cold and note the knowledges that had to be in place for certain innovations to occur. I am interested in developments by different people in different times and places, as well as the conversations, literal and figurative, and the exchanges of ideas that took place between them. I ‘walk through’ an exhibit in the Science Museum in London as a way to meet the innovators and explore the key developments upon which histories of refrigeration have been built. My stories are about journeys, about the interplay between movements of molecules and of ideas, of ice and ships and meat, of gases passing through tubes and valves and of what people bought to eat. I show how the desire to cool beer and meat became principle driving forces behind early applications of refrigeration and emphasise how developments in this technology vastly extended the longevity and reach of perishable foods. In this chapter, I touch upon various forms of ‘catching’ cold, whether that be grappling with icebergs or cutting ice from ponds; adopting certain practices or modes of thought as they caught on, from a fashion for using ice in drinks to a particular theory of heat; grasping the physics of cooling; attempting to control the movement of heat within a machine; or trapping cold air inside an insulated icehouse or refrigerator. I argue that the ability to make cold mechanically represents a highly significant technical achievement and one that demonstrates the intimate interconnectivity between scales, from the microscale at which molecules move to the global transportation of foods.  38  HARVESTING AND TRADING NATURAL ICE Bacon, chicken and snow Historically, there are records of snow being collected, stored and sometimes moved great distances. Wealthy Romans, for instance, could acquire snow transported from the Apennines and in the early Middle Ages snow was conveyed by camel from Lebanon to supply the palaces of Damascus, Cairo and Baghdad (Thévenot 1979, p. 23). In Britain, the earliest reference to testing snow’s preservation properties seems to be of an experiment performed by Francis Bacon (1561-1626). In the later years of his life, Bacon, a philosopher and one-time Lord Chancellor to King James I, had turned to interests in natural philosophy and science. Curious as to whether snow would keep meat fresh as an alternative to salting, Bacon put his theory to the test one snowy day in London in March 1626. Thomas Hobbes, one of Bacon’s associates, recounted the story to John Aubrey, who retells it in his collection of Brief Lives: As he was taking the aire in a coach with Dr Witherborne (a Scotchman, Physitian to the King) towards High-gate, snow lay on the ground, and it came into my Lord’s thoughts, why flesh might not be preserved in snow, as in Salt. They were resolved they would try the Experiment presently. They alighted out of the Coach and went into a poore woman’s house at the bottom of Highgate hill and bought a hen, and made the woman exenterate it, and then stuffed the body with Snow, and my Lord did help to doe it himselfe (Aubrey 1949, p. 16, spelling as in original).  Unfortunately, Bacon did not survive to investigate refrigeration further. He fell ill suddenly and was taken to the home of the Earl of Arundel, where he died a few days later from pneumonia, allegedly developed from a chill he caught that day in the snow. Affectionately christened by Cooper as “an early and distinguished martyr to the cause of refrigeration,” Bacon wrote a letter to Arundel on 9th April 1626, the day he died, in which he explained: I was desirous to try an experiment or two touching the conservation and induration of bodies; as for the experiment it succeeded excellently well (cited in Cooper 1997, p. 1).  39  Unroofing the house of fishes Although few early records exist detailing the practice of harvesting or using ice in Europe or North America, it is likely that in winter ice would have been removed from ponds and rivers on a small scale using basic tools (Figure 2.1). It is difficult to gauge the extent of such use historically, for ice use does not mark the landscape in the same way as fire leaves traces of its presence that archaeologists and historians can ‘read’; as it melts and disappears, ice leaves little record, save for the ice houses, or the remnants of such structures, which offer some clues, usually about ice use among the wealthy (Crawhall & Lentaigne 1934, p. 6). What we do know is that in the early nineteenth century, a highly organised and mechanised natural ice industry developed in the United States and grew to a scale now difficult to comprehend (Figure 2.2). Figure 2.1 Small-scale ice harvesting, mid-nineteenth century, The London Illustrated News, 5th January 1850  © Illustrated London News Ltd/Mary Evans Picture Library, used with permission  40  Figure 2.2 The Knickerbocker Ice Company. Ice can be seen being unloaded from ships, carried on a mechanised conveyer belt, stacked in an ice store and delivered by a fleet of horses and carts.  Source: Hall (1888) The Ice Industry of the United States, p. 19  In his reminiscences about Walden Pond near Boston, Thoreau writes evocatively about the ice cutting he witnessed while visiting in the winter of 1847. He paints a picture of the large commercial teams at work, cutting ice for export, and also the small scale individual use that would formerly have been the norm. Just as our confectioners used ice that had been harvested the previous winter and safely stored in icehouses into the summer, or at least they did so when the climate cooperated, so Thoreau describes the figure of the landlord coming from the village in winter to collect ice to cool his drinks in summer: he cuts and saws the solid pond, unroofs the house of fishes, and carts off their very element … to wintry cellars, to underlie the summer there (Thoreau 1954, p. 54).  In eighteenth-century Britain, ice was harvested from ponds, lakes and inland waterways, such as the Regent’s Canal in London and the Norfolk Broads (Furnival 1998, p. 57). There are descriptions in The London Journal in the early 1770s of cart-loads of ice being taken from the canal in St James’s Park to an icehouse newly built in Green Park to store ice for the Royal household (Cooper 1997, p.1, citing The London Journal January 1774 and November 1773). It is hard to know when a domestic trade in ice began. Few accounts survive of what would originally have been a small and rather ad hoc trade, though Hardyment finds evidence dating from 1726 when “eighty loads of ice for the Ice House” were delivered to the manor house at Knowle (1992, p. 104). Later, as commercial and  41  industrial demand for ice developed, overseas supplies were brought to London and the principal fishing ports to supplement domestic harvests.  A slippery speculation The confectioners’ Greenland iceberg proved slippery in more ways than one. As well as the practical challenges accompanying the transport of such a perishable commodity, it also threw up administrative ones, for ice also proved slippery conceptually: When the cargo arrived in the river, the Custom-house officers were, as usual, on the alert, and the ice-berg from which it had been abstracted, not having either a custom-house or an accompting-house erected on it, the customary bills of lading and clearance were wanting. This was not the only informality discovered in the case. The commodity being foreign, it was clear it should be entered at the Custom-house of London; but whether under the head of produce or of manufacture, was a very puzzling question. After much dispute, it was proposed to cut the knot, by entering the commodity as foreign fabric. … A compromise was, however, effected in time to prevent a premature dissolution (The Times 1822, p. 3, emphasis in original).  The arrival of this curious cargo evidently put Customs and Excise officials in a quandary. Moving goods across national borders depends on having the requisite paperwork attached to them. As ‘foreign fabric,’ matter not of Britain, ice had to be classified to enter. It failed to fit neatly into officials’ existing schema and they struggled with where best to place a substance so ‘foreign’ to their accounting system until these knowledges, practices and organising systems stabilised sufficiently for ice to shift status once again and become a ‘normal’ import. A modest trade in ice was already underway within the United States by this time starting, it is said, in 1799 with a cargo cut from a pond near Canal Street in New York and shipped to Charleston, South Carolina (Jones 1984, p. 93). Although a commercial ice business did not exist as such prior to 1800, by the mid-nineteenth century a well organised industry had emerged. Remarkably for such a highly perishable product, not to mention one formerly regarded as a free good that was “plentiful and useless,” ice was to become a commodity shipped around the world, in large part due to Frederick Tudor’s (1783-1864) unshakable conviction that exporting ‘frozen water’ to the West Indies would be a profitable enterprise (Dickason 1991, p. 60; Weightman 2003). 42  The Ice King and the frozen water trade Tudor was nicknamed the ‘Ice King’ for initiating the substantial trade in natural ice which originated in Boston. He recognised the potential for export early on and, from 1805, kept a detailed account of the progress of his business in what he titled his Ice-House Diary. His first shipment was to St Pierre in Martinique, where he arrived in 1806 with 130 tons of ice aboard the Favorite, a vessel he was forced to buy himself after failing to find any other ship owners willing to carry his unusual cargo (Shachtman 2000, p. 62). His journey met with limited success. Without suitable storage facilities at the destination port, his cargo did not last long. Moreover, the local population was completely unfamiliar with ice, ice cream or iced drinks and had no knowledge of how to use or keep it. Tudor hurriedly undertook a public education exercise, producing and distributing handbills to explain its use and preservation. In a letter to his brother-in-law on March 10th, 1806, Tudor complained that: their methods of keeping it are laughable, to be sure. One carries it through the street to his house in the sun noon day, puts it in a plate before his door, and then complains that “il fond.” Another puts it in a tub of water, a third by way of climax puts his in salt! and all this notwithstanding they were directed in the hand bill what to do (cited in Shachtman 2000, p. 63).  Tudor appeared frustrated by the local population’s failure to adhere to his instructions. He had provided the necessary information about how to handle this product, and yet people were slow to put it into practice. The new knowledges associated with the introduction of this novel commodity had first to be translated into daily practice, and then to stabilise. Elsewhere he seemed more ready to acknowledge that the kind of sea change he sought to instigate takes time; “the object,” he explains, “is to make the whole population use cold drinks instead of warm or tepid,” estimating that “it will be effected in the course of three years.” Although he lost most of the money he invested in the venture, Tudor learned two crucial lessons: first, business success would depend on effective storage to minimise wastage through melting; and, second, marketing and consumer education were essential to convince people of the benefits of ice, to build demand and promote new consumption practices.  43  A shipment to Havana the following year was more fruitful, but President Jefferson’s 1807 embargo on trading with French and British colonies thwarted Tudor’s plans to expand into the Caribbean. Over the following decade, Tudor started supplying southern US cities, such as Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans, which lacked natural ice sources of their own. Using promotional strategies to generate demand, like offering free ice for an initial period, he found residents quick to develop a taste for delicacies like iced drinks and ice cream (Shachtman 2000, p. 64). With such ‘novelties’ being adopted as the norm, ice shifted status and Jones (1984, p. 93) credits Tudor with turning ice into a necessity in these coastal areas. One of Tudor’s key strengths was his comprehensive understanding of the qualities and behaviour of ice. Through observation, detailed measurement and trial and error, he recognised the factors affecting melting rates and learned how to design ice houses and insulate ships more efficiently. The icehouse he built in Havana in 1816 proved conclusively that ice could be stored successfully not only in hot climates, but also above ground. Tudor benefited from collaborating with Nathaniel Wyeth in the mid 1820s. Wyeth’s innovations in harvesting, such as the horse-drawn ice plough, revolutionised the industry. In his diary entries in 1827, Tudor spelled out the advantages of the uniform blocks of ice that this device produced, calculating that up to 17% more ice would fit in a ship’s hold when was cut to a standardised shape and size (Dickason 1991, p. 62). The harvesting process began with scraping the ice clear of snow and cutting grooves into its surface to mark out a checkerboard of blocks. Wyeth’s plough would then cut through the ice to about two-thirds of its depth, a process previ