Pig rearing, killing and consumption: the healing effects of multispecies engagement for the communities of Ilva Mică and Prundu Bârgăului
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis considers the relationships between rural humans, their pigs and other nonhuman animals in Prundu Bârgăului and Ilva Mică, villages in the county of Bistrița-Năsăud, northern Romania. I argue that all my informants’ animals had positive effects on their owners’ health and wellbeing, but that pigs have a special status. Pigs are relatively cheap to keep and fatten, their meat is notionally Romania’s national food, and they make a unique contribution to peasants’ empowerment as ‘natural’, ‘traditional’ agriculturalists, while also being twenty-first century Romanians. I argue that pig rearing has helped humans cope with socio-political trauma, namely their exclusion and misunderstanding by successive political establishments in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. I explore the private rearing, killing and consumption of pigs and the long-lasting human-pig relations of care, trust and attention. I do this by examining the political context of the region and the growing pressures from Romanian and European welfare and farming authorities on local peasants to develop their modes of labour. I also explore the influence of Orthodox religion and village norms on local patterns of pork consumption, and on the emotional aspects of human-pig interactions. Besides being a multispecies ethnography which considers the agencies of various animals on social life in northern Romania, this thesis is also a reflexive text. I show the development of my relationship with my informants through discussing culinary habits. I demonstrate the importance of commensality, hospitality and emotionality in negotiating my identity as a Romanian, vegetarian, ‘ex-local’ researcher, and the identities of my informants as traditional, curious and open-minded, peasants.
MbyRes in Anthropology