Joanna Sierks Smith
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationNorth Carolina, Chapel Hill, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9873
Approve DateMay 8, 2019
Project TitleSmith, Joanna (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) "Prohibition, Transgression, and the Configuration of Bodies at the Modern Slaughterhouse"
This ethnographic study explores the sacred dimensions of hog slaughter in North Carolina. Expanding upon literature within the anthropology of religion, I ask what elements of sacred life persist in ostensibly “secular” contexts where animals are slaughtered for human consumption. Through much of European and American history, livestock were unceremoniously killed in streets, backyards, and public squares. The development of the modern industrial slaughterhouse as the predominant site for killing animals therefore signals a stark historical shift. Drawing on scholarly models of sacrifice, this project traces the ways in which secrecy and a complex of prohibitions surrounding industrial animal slaughter today mark contemporary slaughterhouses as sites of the “negative sacred.” The project goes on to examine the ways in which the religious mechanisms that structure this negative sacred space participate in the production and amplification of social categories. By testing models of sacrifice in a revealing new context, I aim to open up a new set of theoretical questions around the relationships between prohibition, transgression, and mechanisms of social control.