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Pig as Geography — Site, Infrastructure and Flow 

Siew Ching Ang explores the pig as a site of extraction, infrastructure and territorial flow.

Siew Ching Ang

Our image of pig-farming tends to be one of pastoral relations where humans and animals co-exist on idyllic landscapes. However, the pig has long left the small-scale farm. It has become a site of extraction, a fleshy infrastructure and a flow across territories. 

The pig exists not as a being but a piece of material. The pig as an animal is nothing but an archetypal pig created by industry – that standard pink, full-bodied, smiley creature. Over hundreds of years, the pig has been measured, re-engineered, genetically-modified, and continually and manually selected for the standards of the production line, dissembled down to molecular level for maximum economic value. [1] We continue to squeeze profits out of the pig, within the efficiencies of our late-industrial age to the extent that there is no pig waste in the waste streams of slaughter sites. [2] Instead, the factory farm seeks to carve deeper into the terrain of the pig’s body to extract value such that our lives are woven into a whole range of pig products besides meat — biofuel, skincare products, stationery, construction material, and pet food. [3] Even if we are vegetarians, other needs in our lives continue to support the production chain of the industrial pork that seeks to extract every bit of value out of the death and post-death of the animal.

The pig exists as an industrial logic. Its most evident manifestation would be the sprawling stockyards of Chicago. The famed site of extraction where they used everything from the pig except the squeal. [4] The disassembly lines of Chicago Union Stockyards is even said to inspire Fordism — the production line based on standardisation and mass production — following a visit to the stockyards by Henry Ford.[5] While the disassembly of pigs inspired the assembly production lines, the rearing of pigs are today equally subjected to assembly line logic where they are grouped in different stages of finish and their needs catered to efficiently. This logic of assembly is, today, consolidated in pig high-rises where landscapes of pig production give way to architectonic solutions. From sprawling to high-rise, the pig hotel demonstrates a consolidation of the pig rearing industry, that everywhere in the world is seeing the reduction of small farms.[6]

The pig exists as a landscape of production. It used to be that pigs fed on grain and then fertilise the local soil with their manure. But today, grain grown from far-flung places is imported to feed pigs. The economies and labour of these far-flung places is reduced to a matter of grain prices. On the other hand, the manure of pigs in factory farms becomes a problem for their local communities. Besides the stench from concentrated lagoons of pig manure, these lagoons become flooded during hurricane events.[7] The toxic waste can contaminate water sources and cause disease spread.


  1. See: Sam White. 2011. “From Globalized Pig Breeds to Capitalist Pigs: A Study in Animal Cultures and Evolutionary History.” Environmental History 16 (1): 94–120. https://doi.org/10.1093/envhis/emq143.
  2. Alex Blanchette, Porkopolis: American Animality, Standardized Life, and the Factory Farm. (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2020), 207 – 208.
  3. Ibid, p.236
  4. Upton Sinclair, The Jungle, (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1906), 38.
  5. Nicole Shukin, Animating Capital: Rendering Life in Biopolitical Times, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), 87.
  6. See: Tyne Morgan. August 15, 2023. Pork Business. It’s Starting: Why Recent Processing Plant, Farm Closures Signal Major Consolidation is Now Underway for Pork and Poultry. https://www.porkbusiness.com/news/industry/its-starting-why-recent-processing-plant-farm-closures-signal-major-consolidation-now
  7. See: Umair Irfan, Sep 21, 2018, Hog manure is spilling out of lagoons because of Hurricane Florence’s floods. https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/9/18/17873632/hurricane-florence-flooding-hog-lagoon-waste-coal-ash-north-carolina

Ecological Thinking

This is the course blog for K-JI-11-23A – Ecological Thinking. In 2023-24, we explore “Vertical Ecologies” by visual arts, film and performance. The course is co-organized by Giovanna Esposito Yussif and Samir Bhowmik. Previously, in 2022-23, we organized a year-long collaborative research studio with Aarhus University, DK, Research Pavilion 2023 and Helsinki Biennial 2023 on the themes of environmental data, sensing and contamination.

Header image credit: Abelardo Gil-Fournier and Jussi Parikka / Seed, Image, Ground (2020)- With permission from the authors.

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