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Tag: political science

Every 12 seconds

12secondsDuring the 8th Annual Symposium on Current Developments in Ethnographic Research held this year at the VU (28-30 August) keynote speaker and political scientist Timothy Pachirat talked about his undercover, ethnographic research at an industrialized slaughter house on the kill floor. Timothy, who is Assistant Professor of Politics at The New School for Social Research, wrote a book about his research, ‘Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight’, in which he explores how industrialized violence at an American slaughterhouse is organized, disciplined, and reproduced. At the slaughterhouse, 2,500 cattle are killed per day – one every 12 seconds. With his consent, we share below parts of an interview he held this year with  correspondent Avi Solomon from about his research and  book.

Avi: Why did you choose to go undercover in a slaughterhouse?

Timothy: I wanted to understand how massive processes of violence become normalized in modern society, and I wanted to do so from the perspective of those who work in the slaughterhouse. My hunch was that close attention to how the work of industrialized killing is performed might illuminate not only how the realities of industrialized animal slaughter are made tolerable, but also the way distance and concealment operate in analogous social processes: war executed by volunteer armies; the subcontracting of organized terror to mercenaries; and the violence underlying the manufacturing of thousands of items and components we make contact with in our everyday lives. Like its more self-evidently political analogues–the prison, the hospital, the nursing home, the psychiatric ward, the refugee camp, the detention center, the interrogation room, and the execution chamber–the modern industrialized slaughterhouse is ‘zone of confinement,’ a ‘segregated and isolated territory,’ in the words of sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, ‘Invisible,’ and ‘on the whole inaccessible to ordinary members of society.’ I worked as an entry level worker on the kill floor of an industrialized slaughterhouse in order to understand, from the perspective of those who participate directly in them, how these zones of confinement operate.

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