“As a vegetarian, we never do well enough”

Positioning in the normative landscape of meat consumption.





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.

Author Biography

Fabienne Gfeller, Institute of psychology and education, University of Neuchâtel Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Fabienne Gfeller works as a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute of psychology and education, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland. She is currently involved in a collaborative research project on modes of housing for elderly people, a regional case study articulating sociogenetic, microgenetic and ontogenetic dynamics of change and development. In her doctoral dissertation, which she defended in 2020, she examined positioning dynamics in relation to the consumption and production of products of animal origin. She draws on socio-cultural and dialogical approaches, aiming at a better understanding of how people can creatively explore possibilities in a complex and challenging context. This interest was already underlying her master thesis, a study on creativity and imagination in the practice of aikido. In addition to that, she works on social interactions through different collaborations, participates to a project mandated by the regional authorities aiming at the identification of resources and obstacles that elderly people encounter in their daily life and teaches introduction to research methods to bachelor students.




How to Cite

Gfeller, F. (2021). “As a vegetarian, we never do well enough”: Positioning in the normative landscape of meat consumption. International Review of Theoretical Psychologies, 1(1). https://doi.org/10.7146/irtp.v1i1.127087



Contemporary issues in an era of acceleration