Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA)
Oral Presentation Session
In the late twentieth century, industrial producers have embraced the production of halal commodities, including meat and other food products, as part of a $1.4 trillion global market. Central to this production have been an array of discourses that assert that the global production, circulation, and consumption of halal commodities constitute a form of ethical action that transcend the profit motive driving the production of other kinds of commodities. Within this vision, since Islam is a universal message applicable to humanity across time and space, injecting Islamic values into halal commodities means surpassing the commercial interest conceived to be at the heart of capitalist production, as producers help consumers fulfill other needs, including the biological imperative to eat, care for the environment, and make harmonious social relations. In this way, producers link halal commodities to other current qualities on the market such as fair trade and organic, that aim to add a new moral dimension to capitalist production. Drawing upon ethnographic fieldwork conducted among halal producers in Brazil, this paper analyzes how the discourse of the transcendent quality of Islam and the ethical nature of halal production both intermingles and conflicts with other discourses about how halal commodities need to be managed in order to serve and protect particular nationalist or community interests. In this way, I underscore how this transcendent discourse is always aimed at and articulated through particular notions of prosperity and community.