American Animality, Standardized Life, and the Factory Farm


Book Pages: 320 Illustrations: 56 illustrations Published: May 2020

Author: Alex Blanchette

American Studies, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Cultural Studies > Animal Studies

In the 1990s a small midwestern American town approved the construction of a massive pork complex, where almost 7 million hogs are birthed, raised, and killed every year. In Porkopolis Alex Blanchette explores how this rural community has been reorganized around the life and death cycles of corporate pigs. Drawing on over two years of ethnographic fieldwork, Blanchette immerses readers into the workplaces that underlie modern meat, from slaughterhouses and corporate offices to artificial insemination barns and bone-rendering facilities. He outlines the deep human-hog relationships and intimacies that emerge through intensified industrialization, showing how even the most mundane human action, such as a wayward touch, could have serious physical consequences for animals. Corporations' pursuit of a perfectly uniform, standardized pig—one that can yield materials for over 1000 products—creates social and environmental instabilities that transform human lives and livelihoods. Throughout Porkopolis, which includes dozens of images by award-winning photographer Sean Sprague, Blanchette uses factory farming to rethink the fraught state of industrial capitalism in the United States today.


Porkopolis is a rigorous and insightful ethnography of food production that connects the politics of labor to ambitious theorizations of political economy and biopolitical governance. Beautifully written and highly accessible, Porkopolis is a field-defining work in animal studies, the anthropology of labor, and food studies. An outstanding book.” — Gabriel Rosenberg, author of The 4-H Harvest: Sexuality and the State in Rural America

“In Porkopolis, the industrial pig is not just vertically integrated; it is pervasive, conditioning hog and human bodies and saturating workers' social lives and living spaces. Exquisitely researched and indelibly written, Alex Blanchette's arresting ethnography challenges us to see industrial meat as a new biopolitical regime, the next chapter in capitalism's quest to dominate nature by standardizing life.” — Heather Paxson, author of The Life of Cheese: Crafting Food and Value in America


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Alex Blanchette is Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Environmental Studies at Tufts University and coeditor of How Nature Works: Rethinking Labor on a Troubled Planet.

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Table of Contents Forthcoming
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0840-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0789-0
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