A Joint International and Interdisciplinary Conference
April 16th-17th, 2020 – Université de Rennes 1, Université Rennes 2, France
May 28th-29th, 2020 – University of California, Santa Barbara, USA
The Research Team Anglophonie: Communautés et Écritures at Université Rennes 2, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, the Research Team Centre de Recherche en Économie et Management, Université de Rennes 1, and the University of California, Santa Barbara will host a conference entitled « Vegetarian Epiphanies: From Realization to Changing Eating Habits » in April (Rennes) and May 2020 (Santa Barbara).
Understood in a secular sense, « epiphany » refers to a moment of powerful insight that brings new understanding—flash of revelation with lasting consequences. The term can aptly describe some experiences of vegetarian awakening. « Epiphanies » of this sort seem to have multiplied in Western countries in recent years, as exemplified by French Veggie Pride, Paul McCartney’s British Meat Free Monday, the American documentaries Earthlings and Cowspiracy, and in the ever-expanding range of plant-based meat alternatives found in Western supermarkets.
Our joint conference aims to investigate this phenomenon in an academic setting. Why is it more common now to eliminate animal flesh (vegetarianism), to keep any animal products from one’s diet (dietary veganism), or to prohibit the use of any animal products for food, clothing, or any other purpose (ethical veganism)?
Flexible plant-based diets are also gaining ground. There are now more flexitarians, who eat mostly vegetarian food but still consume meat or fish occasionally. The number of consumers who partly or fully embrace a plant-based diet has risen sharply in recent years. But this often controversial social phenomenon raises many questions. How do epiphanies happen? Is the moral conversion sudden or gradual, life-changing or reversible? Why and how do people transition to plant-based diets? Is the initial epiphany the catalyst for long-standing eating habits? What is the precipitating cause of an epiphany: is it ethical, environmental, health-related, or a matter of taste?
In anticipation of this French and American conference, we encourage various disciplines especially in the humanities and social sciences, to share, compare, and contrast their perspectives (e.g. anthropology, cultural studies, economics, animal and critical animal studies, history, geography, literature, philosophy, psychology, sociology, etc.). We particularly encourage proposals that address the following (non-exhaustive) topics, especially in the context of French- and English-speaking countries:
The social perspective:
- The sociology of vegetarianism / veganism.
- Different forms of transitions: radical and irreversible, progressive, backsliding. What are the most common transitions: from carnism to flexitarianism / reducetarianism /vegetarianism / veganism? From vegetarianism to veganism? Are there more direct transitions today: from carnism directly to veganism? How and why do some vegetarians go back to eating meat and fish?
- Individual versus collective epiphanies: social psychology, social factors; what, if any, are the challenges and/or the catalysts?
- The social perception of going veggie. Is the transition associated with misplaced « sentimentality », role-playing, sanctimony, self-righteousness, etc.?
The cultural perspective:
- Specificities of the French-speaking world, the English-speaking world, and other cultural contexts.
- Veg epiphanies in art, literature, and film.
- Famous veg epiphanies (historical figures, philosophers, authors, celebrities).
The psychological perspective:
- Favorable and unfavorable psychological dispositions: motivation, the decision-making process, cognitive dissonance, etc.
- How does a change of consciousness occur? Does it occur by means of a conversation, a moral shock, or rather a progressive evolution by dint of readings, images, videos, personal reflection, or one’s social, natural or cultural environment, etc.?
The behavioral perspective:
- The economics of transitioning to plant-based diets.
- The « meat paradox ».
- New perceptions of the consumption of animal flesh foods, cannibalism, etc.
- Social networks and epiphanies.
The ideological and political perspectives:
- The political, social, ethical, and media backlash in response to vegetarian epiphanies.
- The various reasons for adopting a plant-based lifestyle: ethical, ecological, religious, health or taste-related causes.
- Links to other eating habits: fair trade, the locavore movement, etc.
Animal welfare-related epiphanies:
- The role of animal protection or liberation groups and vegetarian and vegan organizations (L214, PETA, Compassion in World Farming, the Vegetarian Society, l’Association Végétarienne de France, etc.).
- The role of moral philosophy in vegetarian conversions.
Speakers are welcome to deliver their presentations in English or in French.
Proposals for papers should be approximately 250 words and be submitted before November 1st, 2019.
Notification of acceptance will be sent to authors before December 1st, 2019.
Note: The conference does not cover the travel expenses of participants.