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On the composition of lasagna by Prolapsarian

In economy, Europe, history, politics, sociology, theory on June 19, 2013 at 19:33

From: On the composition of lasagna: A caprice on horses, abstraction, and the division of labour by Prolapsarian, http://prolapsarian.tumblr.com

The article was shared by Philippe Theophanidis (http://aphelis.net/) – Thank you!

“It is impossible to remain in a large German city where hunger forces the most wretched to live on the banknotes with which passers-by seek to cover an exposure that wounds them.” – Walter Benjamin[1]

“I could eat a horse.” A phrase once expressing hunger has recently been transformed into a contemplation you may mumble to yourself while considering what to pick up from the supermarket for dinner. Such a thought resounds with disgust, yet that disgust has, over the last weeks, remained unanalysed, or perhaps unsynthesised. It has remained merely an outburst. Where it has been thought about, the usual conclusion has been that it has something to do with the domestication of horses, the fact that they are the sort of animals we give names to, and that under the conditions of their domestication they are often treated by their owners as if they offer some kind of emotionally reciprocal relationship. Against this, I would like to suggest that the disgust that is felt at eating horses actually has rather less to do with the fact that they are pets than it has to do with feelings about the history of class, the production of food, and the experience of contemporary conditions of labour. In this sense, the feeling of disgust must be retained in its material specificity, but its texture must be understood as nebulous as it is abstracted through the history of concepts, only to find them insufficient, breaking apart, spiritually refracting, to return once again to whatever material they do not capture.

Hunger

From hour to hour the sting of hunger was increasing, and horse-flesh had become a delicacy. Dogs, cats, and rats were eagerly devoured. The women waited for hours in the cold and mud for a starvation allowance. For bread they got black grout, that tortured the stomach. Children died on their mothers’ empty breasts. […] At the end of December their privations began to open the eyes of the people.[2]

Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray’s stomach-churning words, written only a few years after his first-hand experience of the events, describe the conditions of life in Paris during the siege of 1870. The government, he tells us, had, “far from evacuating the superfluous mouths, crowded the 200,000 inhabitants of the suburbs into the town” before the whole of Paris was to be cut off by Bismarck’s troops.

The passage, in its images of misery and horror, expresses the proximity of hunger to the historic eating of horse. It is with the word “delicacy” that we shudder most, for it poses an unusual question: what can we find beautiful under the duress of starvation? Today, hunger remains proximate to this feeling of disgust, about which we have read so often in the last weeks. Horse has been found only in in frozen and processed meats. It has been discovered in food used to feed prisoners, and in school dinners produced for a pittance and available free to poorer families, in hospital food but also in value-ranges in supermarkets. Horse is held at once in opposition to hunger and to choice of eating something else which is unaffordable; horse has come to occupy that narrow ground of necessity.

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Reposted according to copyright notice from: Prolapsarian (Please share it! – https://twitter.com/Prolapsarian/status/305689879604498432)

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