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Title: When flesh becomes meat : encountering meaty bodies in contemporary culture
Author: Deller, Rosemary
ISNI:       0000 0004 5369 881X
Awarding Body: University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2015
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Being treated as a piece of meat has long been an issue around which feminist concerns regarding the representation of women and practices of cultural consumption coalesce. However, as the Humanities undergo a paradigm shift away from intrinsically privileging the human subject, this demands new consideration of how cultural figurations of meat can work to challenge the terms of the species border. This thesis offers close readings of contemporary film, literature, visual art, music and live performance produced between the late 1980s and the present day that stage carnal encounters with meat. I unite these figurations under the term ‘meaty bodies’, exploring how they question the supposedly self-evident line between the flesh that we are and the flesh that we may eat. Situating its theoretical approach within the tension between psychoanalytic and cultural theories of taboo and abjection and emerging ‘new materialist’ conceptualisations of matter, this thesis contributes to the project of disrupting the primacy of ‘the human’ and the workings of the species divide. The thesis begins by examining three cultural productions that humanise meat by using it to speak to themes of vulnerability, trauma and sexual desire respectively. The photographic series Perishables (Yolaçan, 2002–04), the live art performance My New York (Zhang, 2002) and the pornographic novella The Butcher (Reyes, 1988) utilise meat to speak to issues surrounding human embodiment. However, I suggest that this typically decouples meat from the animal body from which it derives. The thesis subsequently turns to four cultural productions that more directly engage with the violence inherent in the naturalisation of meat as animal body. Analysing the experimental text Diary of a Steak (Levy, 1997), the concept album One Pig (Herbert, 2011), the live art performance inthewrongplaceness (O’Reilly, 2004–09) and the feature film Beasts of the Southern Wild (Zeitlin, 2012), the thesis positions these cultural productions as a challenge to the species border through their attentiveness to contemporary issues surrounding meat consumption and production, including discussion of ‘meat panics’ such as the 1980s/1990s BSE crisis, the development of tissue-cultured meat and impending food scarcity. These close readings show that what I term a ‘carnal equivalence’ between human and animal flesh can be a powerful means of questioning the terms of the species border. Yet, in rendering their encounters with meat frequently difficult and strained, these cultural productions stage and generate ambivalence as integral to our relations with meat consumption and production in the contemporary moment. The thesis suggests that this uncertainty is indicative of a wider impasse within the Humanities, as the field seeks to decentralise ‘the human’ and the discourses that are invested in the continued dominance of this category, yet is still shaped by attachments and anxieties that render this move more difficult than may otherwise be supposed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Meat ; Flesh ; Species divide ; Human/animal relations ; Embodiment ; Consumption ; Food ; Materiality