"Livestock are essential to our lives. We live in a world that is saturated with livestock, and not just with the food that we eat, but with the lives that we live and in the other byproducts that come through livestock production."
Brad Weiss, head of the anthropology department at the College of William and Mary and author of the book "Real Pigs: shifting values in the field of local pork," talks to our own Simon Theobald about the intersections of American farming with big industry, animal life, and international social movements. In this funny and accessible conversation, they talk through the process of building a research project where you are, instead of traveling to a distant "field;" how taste arises out of relationships and ideas, as much as from the food in your mouth; and how it feels to know the name and personality of the animal you're eating.
“I knew that to study local food, or the slow food movement, which is an international movement, to do that would be beyond the grasp of any one ethnographer. But I thought, if I’m in North Carolina, I could look at pigs... pig production was seen as an icon of that [slow food] movement.”
“It has a certain kind of moral cachet, it was a certain kind of hipster cachet as well, what it doesn’t have is the real economic viability.”
“Part of what that entails [making local pigs] is creating the idea that to be local is somehow significant and important... What makes something local is having a community who is interested in making something local.”
“Locality is... it’s not about a spatial plot, as though you can just sort of map the universe and say, 'this place is equidistant from this other place... so that makes it a place.' No. It’s about these values. It’s about the way the social relationships are meaningfully acted upon to create relationships that are important and significant to the people who, and they may not even live in that place... It’s not necessarily that you’re from that locality, but it is that you have an idea that place matters.”
“So taste is not simply something that is in the thing, let alone in the thing because it emerges out of a particular kind of place. But taste is a little bit like place itself. It comes out of a commitment to recognising that there is something important about thinking about how food is located in a particular context, and then you can experience that, and you can learn how to come to experience that.”
"You cannot help but taste in the context of memory, in the context of social interaction."
"The Green Pill," June 11, 2018. The Ezra Klein Show, featuring Ezra Klein and Melanie Joy: https://www.vox.com/2018/6/11/17442558/ezra-klein-show-book-melanie-joy-vegan-vegetarian-carnism-amazon
"Ugly Delicious," David Chang's show on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/au/title/80170368
Paxson, Heather (2012). The life of cheese: Crafting food and value in america (1st ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press.
Weiss, Brad (2016). Real Pigs: Shifting Values in the Field of Local Pork, Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina.
Weiss, Brad, 2009, Street Dreams and Hip Hop Barbershops: Global fantasy in urban Tanzania, Indiana University Press, Bloomington.
Weiss, Brad, 2003, Sacred Trees, Bitter Harvest: Globalising Coffee in Northwest Tanzania, Heinemann, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
Weiss, Brad, 1996, The Making and Unmaking of the Haya Lived World: Consumption, Commoditization, and Everyday Practice, Duke University Press, Durham, North Carolina.
This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the schools of Culture, History, and Language and Archaeology and Anthropology at Australian National University, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association.
Music by Pete Dabro: dabro1.bandcamp.com
Show notes by Ian Pollock