Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Capitalist Pigs: Governmentality, Subjectivities, and the Regulation of Pig Farming in Colonial Hong Kong, 1950-1970

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Capitalist Pigs: Governmentality, Subjectivities, and the Regulation of Pig Farming in Colonial Hong Kong, 1950-1970

Article excerpt


This paper analyses the philanthropic governmentality of the Hong Kong colonial government during the Farm Improvement Program (1950-70), focusing on the utilization of pigs, interest-free loans, and the spatial constitution of pig farming as technologies to transform refugee farmers into 'productive workers'. This research has three primary objectives: to (I) elucidate how the production of knowledge and governing technologies, including the spatial design of livestock production, facilitated the disciplining of pig farmers in a colonial context; (2) expand Foucauldian governmentality analysis into the realm of the regulatory mechanisms of food production systems by documenting how philanthropic pig donations, lending programmes, and the distribution of material benefits promoted capitalist pig production; and (3) demonstrate how technologies--specifically the social construction of pigs and the spatial constitution of pig farming practices--moulded the subjectivities of colonial pig farmers. Empirical analysis is based on archival research and in-depth interviews with 19 pig farmers and two pig farmers' association leaders. We identify the provision of free pigs and pigsties, the demonstration of new spatial pig-raising practices, and the establishment of interest-free lending systems as the major technologies of governance employed under the Farm Improvement Program. Through these technologies refugee farmers from mainland China learned and internalized concepts of efficiency, productivity, farm management, and self-help. The technologies of the Farm Improvement Program were not just philanthropic activities, they were political tactics to confront the penetration of communism into the colony by changing the practices, productivity, and subjectivities of refugee farmers.


Governmentality, space, pigs, subjectivity, Farm Improvement Program, Hong Kong


As Claude Levi-Strauss once commented, societies recognize an animal's status not because it is 'good to eat', but because it is 'good to think' (Levi-Strauss, 1991: 89). Beginning in the 1950s, the Hong Kong colonial government used animals and farming space to guide destitute farmers to think about productive ways of life, stable food supplies, and rejection of communism--the latter a central imperative created by the establishment of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in 1949 and the resulting influx of refugees into colonial Hong Kong.

In rural mainland China, the PRC practiced top-down political control, projecting its power into every village. The PRC exercised control by: (1) creating tensions between landlords and tenant farmers, undermining the authority of the landed classes; and (2) giving land to destitute farmers in order to gain their support and recruit them into the 'communist armies' (Schurmann, 1968: 430-431). In contrast to the PRC, the colonial government of Hong Kong (1) had long exercised control by regulating landholders through the Block Crown Lease (BCL) System and through policies designed to win landholders' support. The BCL System--enacted at the turn of the 20th century--transformed landholders' tenure from freehold to leasehold, weakening the economic power of the indigenous landholding classes in the rural New Territories (Chun, 1991, 2000a, 2000b) and making it an important disciplinary mechanism (2) for the consolidation of British rule. To control indigenous landholders, police forces, (3) rural committees, (4) and local representative groups (e.g. Heung Yee Kuk (5)) were established to promote political loyalty, geographical control, and quiescence (Chun, 2000a, 200b; Kuan and Lau, 1981). The suppression of rural class struggle was among the more significant material benefits the British colonial government offered to indigenous landholders. Rather than challenging landlords' exploitation of tenant farmers, exploitation of tenant farmers was reinforced. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.