Carrie Freshour: “From Chicken to Broiler: Unraveling the Snarl of Centuries”

  • Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography, University of Washington

Abstract: Through W.E.B. Du Bois’ writings on Black Southern time-sense, this paper reads the historical transformation of the backyard chicken into the industrial broiler chicken, the main product produced by the modern poultry industry today. First, it argues that this transformation enabled an uneven and racialized time-sense: While on one hand, the creation of the industrial broiler facilitated the stolen luxury of time for (white) working women, on the other hand it contributed to the disciplinary use of time for Black workers on the poultry assembly line (something which continues to be experienced and felt in so many facets of Black workers’ lives). This case thus visibilizes how time is both an instrument and an ideology of differentiation for racial capitalism, with attention to the places and people that are “forgotten,” made “backward,” or left out of time. Second, the paper explores the moments of reprieve and self-determined joy that allow us to imagine away from the disciplining structures of the time sense of “the poultry.” These struggles and refusals of disciplinary time-sense gesture towards possibilities for more liberatory relations to time and work, which also work against racial capitalism.

Carrie Freshour is Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Washington. Her work focuses on low-wage food and agricultural labor in the U.S. South, racial capitalism, carceral geographies, and Black Radicalism. Freshour is finalizing her book project, Making Life Work, which centers the experiences of Black women, their families, and broader communities in Northeast Georgia who remain the basis for the global production of cheap chicken. She has published on these themes in journals like Antipode, The Monthly Review, and Society and Space, and has a book chapter “Cheap Meat, Cheap Work in the US Poultry Industry: Race, Gender, and Immigration in Corporate Strategies to Shape Labor,” in Elizabeth Ransom and Bill Winders eds., Global Meat: Social and Environmental Consequences of the Expanding Meat Industry (Cambridge, 2019).

Christine Williams (Respondent) is Professor of Sociology and the Elsie and Stanley E. (Skinny) Adams, Sr. Centennial Professor in Liberal Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. She is past president of the American Sociological Association. Her research focuses on gender, race, and class inequality in the workplace. Her most recent book, Gaslighted: How the Oil and Gas Industry Shortchanges Women Scientists (UC Press, 2021), explains why the industry remains white male dominated despite decades of diversity policies. She is also the author of numerous book-chapters and articles, and Inside Toyland: Working, Shopping, and Social Inequality (UC Press, 2006).


  • Christine Williams Professor of Sociology and Elsie and Stanley E. (Skinny) Adams, Sr. Centennial Professor in Liberal Arts, The University of Texas at Austin
Event series: Colloquia, Fall 2021 Colloquium