The Vegan Studies ProjectFood, Animals, and Gender in the Age of Terror


This inescapably controversial study envisions, defines, and theorizes an area that Laura Wright calls vegan studies. We have an abundance of texts on vegans and veganism including works of advocacy, literary and popular fiction, film and television, and cookbooks, yet until now, there has been no study that examines the social and cultural discourses shaping our perceptions of veganism as an identity category and social practice.

Ranging widely across contemporary American society and culture, Wright unpacks the loaded category of vegan identity. She examines the mainstream discourse surrounding and connecting animal rights to (or omitting animal rights from) veganism. Her specific focus is on the construction and depiction of the vegan body—both male and female—as a contested site manifest in contemporary works of literature, popular cultural representations, advertising, and new media. At the same time, Wright looks at critical animal studies, human-animal studies, posthumanism, and ecofeminism as theoretical frameworks that inform vegan studies (even as they differ from it).

The vegan body, says Wright, threatens the status quo in terms of what we eat, wear, and purchase—and also in how vegans choose not to participate in many aspects of the mechanisms undergirding mainstream culture. These threats are acutely felt in light of post-9/11 anxieties over American strength and virility. A discourse has emerged that seeks, among other things, to bully veganism out of existence as it is poised to alter the dominant cultural mindset or, conversely, to constitute the vegan body as an idealized paragon of health, beauty, and strength. What better serves veganism is exemplified by Wright’s study: openness, debate, inquiry, and analysis.

 

Laura Wright is head of the English Department at Western Carolina University. She is the author of Wilderness into Civilized Shapes: Reading the Postcolonial Environment (Georgia).

Combining personal narratives and gender studies with ecofeminism and pop culture, The Vegan Studies Project offers a brilliant analysis of the impact of vegans and veganism on America’s cultural landscape. Laura Wright’s argument for a new field of vegan studies rings true, and this book will be the foundational text.”
—Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight about Animals

“Studies like Wright’s—more than anything else—show how the vegan and vegetarian label and identity are a millstone and a barrier that hinders wider society’s willingness to engage seriously with the rights and wrongs of producing, killing, and eating so many animals. If our strategy is to lessen the harm wreaked on the animals with which humans share this planet, perhaps the strongest lesson we can draw from this work is to step aside from the vegan and vegetarian identity.”
—Tristram Stuart, author of The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times