115th Annual Conference - Honolulu, Hawaii
Friday, November 10 - Sunday, November 12, 2017

Acts of Resistance: Vegan Studies and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Laura Wright, Western Carolina University

This paper aims to further the trajectory of vegan studies as a mode of politically engaged scholarly inquiry via a theoretical examination of the overt focus on veganism and tacit fear of politicized eating that played a role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

 

Proposal: 

 

In my most recent monograph, The Vegan Studies Project: Food, Animals, and Gender in the Age of Terror (U of Georgia P, 2015), I established the field of vegan studies as a product of the discourse of vegan representation as it is situated within and outside of extant conceptions of food studies, animal studies, and animal welfare/rights/liberation. I worked to unpack the tension between the dietary practice of veganism and the manifestation, construction, and representation of vegan identity as created by vegans and simultaneously interpreted and, therefore, reconstituted by and within contemporary media, specifically in the U.S.

 

In “Awakening to the Politics of Food: Politicized Diet as Social Identity,” Chelsea Chuck, Samantha A. Fernandes, and Lauri L. Hyers examine the reality that food in the U.S. has “controversial roots in the early global food trade, colonial expansion, and the industrial revolution.”[1] They recognize that food in the U.S. is necessarily a political issue that is, as I am asserting, an enmeshed discourse, “tied to the exploitation of food producers, abuse of animals, environmental destruction, serious health care issues, and unfair distribution that at its worst leads to ‘food deserts,’ food scarcity, and mass starvation.”[2] Based on their study, people who are politicized around food experience their politicization as relegating them to “a marginal status,” which means that they “go through similar encounter awakenings as do individuals politicized about race and gender, and they perceive this to be part of their identity.”[3]

 

In other words, food politicization places politicized eaters at willing risk of the kind of marginalization that potentially invites alienation and, at the most extreme, harm. In this essay, I hope first to trace my historical and personal understanding of vegan studies as it emerged – unnamed – somewhere around 2003, when I was working on my doctoral dissertation on the works of South African novelist J.M. Coetzee – and then to further the trajectory of vegan theory as a mode of politically engaged scholarly inquiry that recognizes veganism as a practice, identity category, and a set of cognitive co-ordinates[4] via a theoretical inquiry into the often overt focus on veganism and tacit fear of politicized eating that played a role in the 2016 U.S. presidential election of Donald Trump.


[1] Chelsea Chuck, Samantha A. Fernandes, and Lauri L. Hyers, “Awakening to the Politics of Food: Politicized Diet as Social Identity,” Appetite 107 (2016): 425.

 

[2] Ibid.

 

[3] Ibid., 434.

 

[4] I’m pulling this language from the call for papers for the Toward a Vegan Theory conference that took place at the University of Oxford in May of 2016.

 

Topic Area: