Abstract

The article deals with the problem of constructing representations of the body in vegetarian discourse. Corporeality is not only an objectively existing physical instrument of social interactions, but it is also a sociocultural construct. Vegetarianism as an alternative, nontraditional style of food consumption influences the formation of ideas about oneself and others, and transmits moral values, norms, rules of behavior, which create the conditions for the formation of social identity, and, in particular, the notions of one’s own body. Th e article discusses the understanding of one’s own body through three components of vegetarian discourse: the influence of plant foods on physical health, the “ethics” of the body and the norms regulating bodily practices. Vegetarians legitimize their eating style with various arguments, referring to scientific discoveries, religious dogmas or ethical principles. The body in vegetarianism is dual, on the one hand, it is viewed from the standpoint of human anatomy and physiology on the basis of natural scientific discourse. On the other hand, the materiality of the body itself is questioned. The body must exist in a regime of constant self-discipline, austerity. Its purpose is to be a tool for realizing the spiritual aspirations of the person, his or her psychic energy. In the vegetarian discourse the human being is often reduced to what he or she eats. The social presentation of a vegetarian is therefore largely related to bodily practices and, in particular, to nutrition practices. What kind of food to eat, what places to visit, how to handle the problem of cruel treatment of animals, what books to read, etc. — all these choices make up a variety of ways of positioning vegetarians in social space.

Keywords: sociology of food, vegetarianism, discourse, nutrition style, bodily practices, social identity