Saraiva, Tiago. Fascist Pigs: Technoscientific Organisms and the History of Fascism. Boston: MIT Press, 2016. xiv + 330 pages. Hardcover, $40.00.
There is little wonder why cultural research concerning food has enjoyed substantial attention in the past two decades. The study of food intersects many fields including science and technology, economics, cultural anthropology, and environmental history. For that reason, historian Tiago Saraiva's recent work, Fascist Pigs: Technoscientific Organisms and the History of Fascism, should catch the eye of academics in many diverse disciplines. Those drawn to this work will be rewarded with a well-researched study of the ways that food, and more generally biopolitics, was integral to the formation of fascist states.
In this work, Saraiva argues that through design and engineering, objects such as wheat, pork, lamb, rubber, and cotton were the embodiment of fascist ideology in that they were designed and standardized for the nationalistic strategy of autarkic food security. Such strategies were rooted in ideological connections between blood and land. Following Bruno Latour's work, Saraiva analyzes these objects more broadly in their political and cultural contexts transforming these organisms into technoscientific 'thick things' which contain multiple meanings simultaneously. In this way, this work helps to bring an ontological turn to the history of science and technology.
Saraiva's central arguments contribute to scholarship in three interrelated ways. First, his approach corrects the overemphasis on efficacy and utility present in studies of fascist agrarian and food policy by treating these initiatives as more than a propaganda tool, instead emphasizing the vision and intent of scientists and policy makers. Saraiva successfully demonstrates how the bureaucratic organizations and research institutions that grew around food policy helped form the fascist states.
Saraiva's second contribution addresses the viability of studying fascism broadly. He argues that common food and biopolitical concerns and programs reveal shared aspects of various fascist regimes, such as Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy, and Salazar's Portugal; thus, it is fair to treat fascism comprehensively despite some unique features. In addition, he views biopolitics as a more comprehensive category of analysis than race which typically set the Nazis apart from other fascist regimes.
Finally, fitting in with an important trend in...