Cuts of meat: disentangling Western natures-cultures

Anthropologists, eager to bring out the originality of the people whom they study, have claimed that in contrast to a singular ‘nature’ in the West, Amerindian ontologies have many natures. But should fascinating accounts of Amerindian ways of world-making presume so much about the ‘West’? This is what we doubt. Taking ‘Western’ not as a region but as a style, we explore Western animal/human relations by describing various ways of enacting ‘meat’. Using excerpts – cuts – from our fieldwork materials, we contrast the investment in the tastiness of lambs in a Spanish butcher store with concern for meat contamination in FAO safety regulations. Next, we juxtapose the relevant ‘meats’ within two classes in a vocational school in the Guatemalan highlands. In one, meat is the centrepiece on a neatly ordered plate, while the other concerns itself with the nutrients that meat contains. ‘Western meat’, then, is not one. It is multiple.

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