Handholds: making sense of bodies through slaughter

Kara Wentworth

Boston 2017: Visual and Sensory Approaches

This multimedia film installation focuses in on the material interactions between hands, hides and knives to make sense of animal slaughter as a material-semiotic process. On the kill floor of a small U.S. animal slaughterhouse, butchers use knives to separate pig hides from bodies. In the process of skinning and disassembling, the animal’s body takes shape, becoming knowable and known in new ways. Though animals are unequal and unwilling partners, they take the lead at times, guiding butchers’ moves and cuts, and offering ways to get a hold of, make sense of, and manipulate the body. This project zooms in on cuts in flesh: literal handholds in animals’ hides that butchers use to get a grip, to hold taut, to rotate, to skin, to pull a pig across a room, and to carry its head and hide to the offal bin. Contributing to conversations in Feminist STS, multi species ethnography and materiality of knowledge, this work offers a novel look at how bodies come to matter.

Published: 01/30/2023