For three centuries—from the seventeenth through the early twentieth century—pigs filled a vital niche transforming waste into food as the US countryside grew into the city in spaces like Providence, Rhode Island. During seventeenth-century colonization, pigs helped shape racialized strategies of exclusion, justifying Indigenous dispossession and new property regimes while also posing material threats to colonizers. Nineteenth-century government-led commodification of waste and regulation of livestock and their owners mobilized dirty pigs and fears of disease and crime to pen pigs and dispossess poor immigrant “swill women” of a means of reproduction. In the early twentieth century, officials championed pigs as living machines that turned garbage into pork, as long as they were spatially separated from the city and managed by professionalized men. Following pigs through these three historical transitions, we see how everyday political ecologies of swine helped shape and reflect social and spatial relations along lines of race, gender, and class, ultimately transforming Providence.

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