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Ted Conover Revisits Harper’s Undercover Assignment

TedConoverPicThe article, titled “The Way of All Flesh,” ran in the May 2013 issue of Harper’s magazine. This week, author Ted Conover revisited his experiences going undercover as a USDA meat inspector in a Midwestern industrial slaughterhouse for the piece, as part of a Morse College master’s tea discussion at Yale University.

He told students that going undercover is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, he was surprised by the kinds of personal connections he was able to establish with other slaughterhouse workers. On the other, that kind of connection is only possible up to a point:

“I don’t think you can feel you really belong if you’re undercover, because you can’t express yourself in a full and honest way,” Conover said. “It’s a form of research I don’t recommend, because it’s hard over time to not be able to feel you belong or tell your friends back home.”

Earlier this year on his personal blog, Conover explained how the Harper’s piece led to an unusual dinner invitation from a student at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. You can watch the resulting video here.

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