“As a vegetarian, we never do well enough”
Positioning in the normative landscape of meat consumption.
Keywords:positioning, norms, taking distance, meat consumption, vegetarianism
Food is an area that receives little attention from psychologists, despite the fact that it provides many interesting situations and dilemmas through which human activity and development can be examined. Currently – at least in the WEIRD (western, educated, industrial, rich and democratic) countries (Henrich et al., 2010), – these activities are an important object of normative discourses and injunctions about how we should behave as consumers and how we should eat, notably when it comes to products of animal origin and meat in particular. In these countries, a large majority of people regularly consumes meat. Vegetarianism can be seen as a deviant behavior to this norm (Boyle, 2011), that provokes reactions as it questions the taken-for-granted normality and necessity of meat consumption (Larue, 2015). However, the issue of meat consumption also intersects with many other normative discourses, such as the imperatives to be an ethical consumer or to be a hedonist. In this paper, I examine how people orient themselves in relation to these norms and possibly take distance from some of them. More specifically I propose to do so through the notion of positioning. Position and positioning are notions that are increasingly used and discussed in psychology. The theorization of these notions is recent, and thus quite disparate (Gülerce et al., 2014), although a few scholars worked on possible synthesis of different traditions (Gillespie & Martin, 2014; Raggatt, 2015). I argue that examining positioning processes in relation to normative discourses and behaviors constitutes a way to understand the relation between the person and some social norms, and that this use will also contribute to deepen the conceptualization of positioning. I draw on empirical work conducted with people who recently changed their habits of consumption of food of animal origin. The questions I examine are: how do people position themselves in the normative and contested world of consumption of food of animal origin, and what are the processes possibly allowing them to question and transgress the norms in this area.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Fabienne Gfeller
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