The Singular Beast

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9780231103671: The Singular Beast

Throughout history, the slaughter and consumption of the pig has been the inspiration for role-playing and taboos, and at the centre of practices that defined the boundaries between Christians and Jews. An exploration of the pig in Judeo-Christian culture and European anti-semitism, this work chronicles the cultural and religious character of a creature that occupies an ambiguous place in the families of those who raise them - at once nearly a member of the family and a potential meal. The author details the folkloric beliefs still found among both provincial and urban Europeans and the rituals that have been associated with the slaughter and consumption of pigs from the Middle Ages until today. The book also demonstrates the continuing power of symbols to sustain or create ethnic identities.

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Review:

The Singular Beast is an academic study of the relationship between pigs and Jews in European Christian culture. It is a challenging book, but it's well worth the trouble for readers who want to understand the shape of traditional Christian anti-Semitism. "We know that the world's cultures readily designate others by what they eat; in Europe we call one another frogs, roast beefs, or macaroni eaters," Claudine Fabre-Vassas writes. "A very rare exception should have aroused suspicion: Jews are called 'pigs,' imagined to be bloodthirsty, identified precisely as what they forbid themselves." When Fabre-Vassas digs into this paradox, she discovers all kinds of interesting and awful myths. Suffice it to say, Christian readers will think twice about putting ham in the oven next Easter.

Book Description:

Throughout history, the slaughter and consumption of the pig has been the inspiration for role-playing and taboos, and at the center of practices that defined the boundaries between Christians and Jews. A provocative exploration of the pig in European culture and anti-Semitism, The Singular Beast chronicles the cultural and religious character of the pig?and details the folkloric beliefs still found among both provincial and urban Europeans and the rituals that have been associated with it from the Middle Ages to today.

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Fabre-Vassas, Claudine
Published by Columbia University Press (1999)
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