Eating animals to build rapport: Conducting research as vegans or vegetarians

Katie Macdonald, Kelly Struthers Montford

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Notions of hospitality, community, and the fostering of rapport and connection are foundational concerns for conducting research across difference. Drawing on methodological literature, this paper considers how access to various communities and “good” data is structured by the notion that in order to develop rapport researchers accept the “food”, specifically “meat” offered by their hosts. When researchers are vegetarians or vegans, this can entail a conflict in which questions of hospitality, relationships, and responsibility to ethical commitments come to the fore. As such, we analyze methodological literature in which the logic of nonhuman animal sacrifice is considered a means to the ends of research through the development of “rapport”—often coded as an ethical relationship of respect to the participant. We draw on experiences of veg*n researchers to explore how this assumption functions to position the consumption of meat as a necessary undertaking when conducting research, and in turn, denies nonhuman animal subjecthood. We interrogate the assumption that culture and communities are static inasmuch as this literature suggests ways to enter and exit spaces leaving minimal impact, and that posits participants will not trust researchers nor understand their decisions against eating nonhuman animals. We argue that because food consumption is figured as a private and individual choice, animals are not considered subjects in research. Thus, we articulate a means to consider vegan and/or vegetarians politics, not as a marker of difference, but as an attempt to engage in ethical relationships with nonhuman animals. In so doing, we call for the inclusion of nonhuman animals in relationships of hospitality, and thereby attempt to politicize the practice of food consumption while conducting research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)737-752
Number of pages16
JournalSocieties
Volume4
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec. 2014

Keywords

  • Alimentary identities
  • Hospitality
  • Nonhuman animal subjects
  • Qualitative methodology
  • Vegan politics
  • Vegetarianism

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