An International Conference at Yale University
October 16-18, 2015
The Yale Program in Agrarian Studies is thrilled to announce an international conference, scheduled for October, 2015, which will will examine the role of pigs in human society in comparative cultural and historical perspective. Presenters will be drawn from around the world and across academic disciplines, including the natural, agricultural, and environmental sciences; the humanities; and journalists, activists, and public intellectuals.
Across cultures and through time, pigs have worked their way into human communities, urban and rural, and, in the process, have become the consummate intimate companions of humans. Even in communities that prohibited the consumption of pig flesh, cohabitation generated a complex symbolic economy: taboos on pork rested on both revulsion at the “filth” of swine and recognition of the pig’s similarity and intimacy with humans. Recognizing the complexity of this interspecies intimacy is a necessarily interdisciplinary and cross-cultural endeavor. To avoid reducing the “problem of the pig” to either contemporary controversies about meat or a universal symbolic economy of animality, we will explore the pig in a range of methodological, historical, and geographic styles.
This conference will ask: What role did pigs have in the development of the earliest settled agriculture and, thus, the emergent power relations of prehistoric human communities? How have the political management and biological transformation of pigs been linked? How do swine fit within and help to constitute both urban and rural ecologies? How stable are the boundaries between the natural boar and the domesticated swine? How has the domestication of swine, in turn, changed human culture? How has the symbolic economy of the pig varied over time and across cultures? How, in particular, have religious beliefs conditioned and been conditioned by the symbolic and material circulation of swine? In sum, this conference poses these questions by stressing how pig bodies, animal agency, and human politics are intertwined. We hope to see you there!