Pork politics: The scales of home-made food in Eastern Poland.


Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Archeology and Ethnology, Al. Solidarności 105, 00-140, Warsaw, Poland. Electronic address: [Email]


This paper examines how food practices and food narratives become tools of community building. It explores the politics of pork consumption and production in Eastern Poland, as embedded and enacted at various scales: homestead, family, gender relations, regional and national affinity as well as in EU and national levels. I draw on ethnographic research among the farming communities, where foodways are tied to ideas of home, work and locality. I find that pork politics takes on numerous forms there: discursive, as visible in the narratives of the symbolic value of pork to mark farmers' way of life; and performative and pragmatic, as visible in the practices of subsistence farming that immerse farmers' lives in food. I argue that all forms point to a creative response to being pushed into the "grey zone" of the state. Due to legislative and political obstacles, small-scale farmers in Eastern Poland withdraw into private sphere and barter, engage in informal food practices and take on ways of life associated with the past. In trying to uphold their status and moral worth, farmers retreat from official farming strategies, reject the values of modernity, equality and development as set out by the EU and become detached from the consumers. I propose that in the homesteads of Eastern Poland, functioning on the "borderland" of the state does not entail being excluded from politics.



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