Journal article

Distance, concealment and politics of sight


A new book reviewed by Debra King in the Australian Review of Public Affairs makes a confronting comparison between industrial slaughterhouses and other ‘zones of confinement’.

In these zones—such as nursing homes, work that deals with death, decay and bodily fluids is physically hidden and socially veiled.

Author Timothy Pachirat spent five months working undercover in an American industrial cattle slaughterhouse where 2,500 cattle were killed each day, and uses this experience to show how work becomes invisible not only to society as a whole, but to workers too who also become distanced from the moral implications of their work, by time pressure, surveillance and other organisational strategies.

So what is this intriguing relationship between the organisation of work in the industrial slaughter of animals and that in the institutionalisation of death (or at least dying) for frail aged people?

Pachirat 's revealing book Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight seeks to bring it into view for those of us who benefit, so that we take responsibility for how workers who produce the goods and services we consume are treated, and, ultimately, for our relationship to the subjects of their labour (whether animal or human).

Can a ‘politics of sight’ make these institutions work and make them more humane?

Read full article in the Australian Review of Public Affairs (59).

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