A Nation of Flesh: Confronting Cattle at the Argentine Slaughterhouse (1839-2001)
This dissertation explores a cultural history of the slaughterhouse in Argentina from the inception of the nation to the beginning of the twentieth century. Against the understanding of the slaughterhouse as a space designed to conceal animal killing from ordinary members of society, I show that Argentina challenges this notion by foregrounding the slaughterhouse as one of the primary tropes in cultural production. I analyze the slaughterhouse in literary and visual materials, and as well as in architectural space both within urban and rural contexts, to study how human encounters with cattle at the slaughterhouse contests understanding of developing countries as producers of so-called “raw materials.” In centering cattle and meat as central to Argentinian notions of modernity, my work destabilizes anthropocentric national histories and offers a speculative model of how to tackle nationalist narratives in an age of recurring environmental crisis. Through an interdisciplinary approach that braids together notions of modernity from the Environmental Humanities and Latin American studies, I show how the slaughterhouse can be understood as a microcosm for Argentina’s regional history of modernity and the consolidation of a sovereign national identity.
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