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Accepted Paper:

"Preserving" whiteness and Britishness in halal and "conventional" sheep slaughterhouses in England  
Jessica Fagin (University of Exeter)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores the death narratives of white British workers in halal and "conventional" sheep slaughterhouses in England. I argue that workers construct racialised hierarchies of belonging and abjection to navigate their own stigma by narratively preserving their whiteness and nationhood.

Paper long abstract:

Slaughterhouses are understood as spaces of certain, mechanised, Fordist death for non-human animals, with deleterious physical and psychological effects on human workers (Pachirat, 2011). They too are imagined as a concealed “place that is no place”, which separate the abject violence of killing from the production of edible flesh (Vialles, 1998). As places constructed through modernity's civlising process, they have been conceptualised as a place where narratives die, or a place without stories (Young-Lee, 2008). While there is no denying that animals meet their deaths on the slaughterline, these meta narratives of concealment, placeless and modernity obscure the ways in which interpersonal narratives within the slaughterhouse between white British workers, and their Asian and Polish co-workers, centred on belonging and abjection, enable them to both navigate and construct the fractured social life of the slaughterhouse.

This paper is focussed on ethnographic research with white British slaughter workers employed in both halal and "conventional" sheep slaughterhouses in England, who have been employed as slaughterman for their entire careers. These workers' "death narratives" largely focus on the “death” of their trade, the impacts of post-industrial decline, and their ambiguities about "multicultural" Britain in which they feel whiteness is disappearing. Yet, these workers have found security and continuity through employment in halal slaughterhouses. In the localised context of three slaughterhouses, I argue that workers construct racialised hierarchies of belonging against their co-workers, reproducing their whiteness and nationhood as a means to temper the stigma of death in slaughter work.

Panel Narr02
Uncertain death: narrative and physical death and the spaces in between
  Session 1 Saturday 10 June, 2023, -