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Accepted Paper:

To Kill and to Care: Reflections on Rearing Animals and Making Meat in Rural Egypt  
Noha Fikry (University of Toronto)

Paper short abstract:

This essay explores caring and killing as two intertwining modes of relating to animals among women farmers in rural Egypt. In the dearth of trusted proteins, caring for animals as food must entail killing, and the promise of a wholesome meal draws caring and killing as everyday bedfellows.

Paper long abstract:

How do we understand eating when caring and killing are its fundamental components? In this essay, I explore home-rearing practices of women farmers in rural Egypt, in which women rear animals to feed their families and in which caring for animals ends with a conscious act of killing. I rely on six stories from fieldwork to situate caring and killing practices in broader economic and nutritional dilemmas, juxtaposing these stories with the capitalist meat industry in Egypt.

I argue that for many families in rural Egypt, eating well is partly about caring for an animal before and during killing it. Far from a moral resolution, however, it is a particular mode of killing and caring for animals that my interlocutors offer as their attempt to live, kill, and eat well. This mode of killing is preceded by caring for animals, premised on caring for family members, and practiced according to religious laws. On the other hand, their mode of caring involves caring for animals and caring about animals. Caring for these animals operates both through a selfless move away from the self or an engrossment in the wellbeing of individual animals and through a self-interested outlook that situates care in the broader context of humans eating animals. We can only grasp this cultivated ethics of care upon following instances of killing and eating that accompany these multispecies care relations. In rural Egypt, eating “well” is a relational matter fraught with everyday acts of killing and caring.

Panel P139a
New Directions in Middle East Anthropology
  Session 1 Tuesday 26 July, 2022, -