Accepted paper:

Sacred Commodity, Profane Labor: reflections on the supply chain of migrant workers to the Brazilian halal meat industry


Laís Meneguello Bressan (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies )

Paper short abstract:

My work contrasts the trajectory of some migrant workers accessing Brazil via humanitarianism with the global circulation of the religious commodity they produced. Scrutinizing the ascension of Brazil as the leading exporter of halal meat sheds light to how commodities help fabricate "the human".

Paper long abstract:

Brazil recently became the leading exporter of halal (Arabic for lawful) meat worldwide. The Islamic regime and its modern interpretation of the Quran prescribe a set of practices for food to be considered licit for Muslim consumption. Regarding animal protein, its core premise lays on how practicing Muslims must render meat lawful via praying for Allah at the act of manually slaughtering the to-be-consumed animal. Within a scheme of large scale production, the Brazilian meat industry with Islamic certifiers recruit Muslim asylum seekers to perform the religious ritual. This means that the production of this Sharia-compliant commodity depends on and is legitimized by the country's humanitarian apparatus, which supplies a low-skilled - yet religiously qualified - labor-force. Based on ethnographic research in Brazil and Europe - among halal slaughtermen mostly of Bangladeshi and Senegalese origin, as well as with institutions involved in the global halal business - I will analyse the conjunction of the precarious and often smuggled trajectories of migrants to Brazil and the strictly regulated trajectories of the halal commodity from Brazil to its consumers around the world. I will elaborate how global food markets are not only consolidated through flows of goods, information and cultural and religious premises, but also, and most crucially in this case, through the supply of people not desired as citizens yet made "useful" as labor force to the over 300 halal meat factories in Brazil.

panel P059
Rearticulating labour: staying, moving, and mobilizing along global commodity chains