For my Haul experiment, I ate at a Vegan restaurant to soak in the food and ethos of Veganism. (Note: I’m not Vegan. Not even close.) I got carrot juice, a salad and a Mexican bowl (pictured). The food itself is less important than the ethos of Vegan culture. Based on my experience, I’ll explore what that ethos can mean for some people who subscribe to Veganism.

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Many Vegans choose the diet for its health benefits, which evidence an overall lifestyle that places a large emphasis on health and wellness. This most likely includes a focus on fitness, such as yoga or running. Another popular reason for being Vegan is a moral opposition to consuming animals or financing the meat industry: the activist reasoning. Individuals who subscribe to either reasoning/ lifestyle are traditionally politically and culturally liberal. Thus, we see the structure of an “imagined community (Canclini).” Veganism is an element of the lifestyle of individuals in the same network, whether that network is health and wellness, animal rights activism or something else. Veganism is a behavior characteristic of broader subcultures.

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Veganism as part of an “imagined community” relates to Douglas and Isherwood’s statement “commodities are good for thinking.” Being a Vegan represents something beyond just a dietary choice. It’s a branding of social consciousness and, in some cases, self-righteousness. It is an encoding one transmits that others decode to be more aware of how you govern your life – that of a health or socially conscious person.

This encoding also relates to Veblen’s “conspicuous consumption” because there is often an economic barrier to entry to being a Vegan. Sometimes people use Veganism as a guise to assert their status, in that they have the luxury of exercising that level of health without the necessity to rely on lower-cost food items.

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This can be further examined by considering Bourdieu’s ideas of habitus. Veganism was once an element of the sub-cultural wave of the ‘new-age’ culture of holistic health. At this point, however, the holistic lifestyle has been regurgitated and repurposed through so much media and education that it is a fixture of mainstream culture. For example, publicly traded corporations such as Lululemon have succeeded by branding themselves as a lifestyle company aligned with this group. We see the commoditization of the holistic lifestyle here. Young people today were not alive during the rise of ‘new-age’ holistic health culture (circa Dr. Andrew Weil, 1970s) so the lifestyle Veganism is a part of has been socialized into their sensibilities, taste and consciousness; their habitus. It could be argued that, as a result of this mainstream socialization, Veganism is losing its “cultural capital” as it becomes even more widespread and common place.

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(Pricey to maintain for most.)

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