A Slovenian Perspective
What do we know About Veggie Culture?
Researching Cultural and Social Aspects of Vegetarianism.
Between specific food practices that reflect and create a variety of different cultural meanings, a conscious refusal of consuming meat, fish, sometimes also milk and dairy products and eggs, is one of the more interesting and controversial. In spite of the fact that vegetarianism has been a part of the Western world from its beginnings in Ancient Greece and that it has always provoked controversial reactions, it seems to be surprisingly under-researched. Up to today it has been raising mixed, often also quite emotional responses – vegetarianism has usually been understood as something marginal, not infrequently also strange, it has often been receiving more or less articulated resistance and/or ridicule.
The lecture will propose a few possible reasons for this. It will present the fundamental characteristics of vegetarianism as a heterogeneous and controversial practice and try to assess its scope in contemporary Western world. It will analyse different types of vegetarianism (veganism, lacto-ovo-vegetarianism, partial vegetarianism or flexitarianism etc.) and the motives for them (health, ethical, wider environmental /ecological, religious /spiritual etc).
The discussion will be empirically based on the main results of the study of vegetarianism and its perceptions in Slovenia, whose main purpose was to assess the prevalence of vegetarianism, find out more about who and why becomes vegetarian, and in the next step to analyze in greater detail the attitude of the majority to the different vegetarian practices.
On this basis, we’ll try to think about a more comprehensive design of quantitative and qualitative research on social and cultural aspects of vegetarianism whose significance is much bigger than statistical shares of vegetarians in contemporary Western societies.
Aleš Črnič, Ph.D. in Social Sciences, is Professor of Religious Studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences (University of Ljubljana). His scientific interest focuses also on social and cultural aspects of vegetarianism. Among others he published Studying Social Aspects of Vegetarianism: A Research Proposal on the Basis of a Survey Among Adult Population of Two Slovenian Biggest Cities<cite>.</cite>
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