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Our growing Sociology list has a global outlook featuring high-quality research across emerging and established areas in the field, such as digital sociology, migration, gender, race and ethnicity, public sociology, and children and families.
The choosing consumer has been a prominent figure within consumption research, alternatively celebrated as enabling the expression of lifestyles and tastes or criticised for overlooking consumers as embedded in interconnected mundane practices. While sociologically oriented consumption research has explored the multiplicity of consumer roles beyond ‘chooser’, the figure of the choosing consumer persists in many research streams and in our shared cultural imagination. This article joins previous research on the ethics of consumption that has explored tensions between choosing and relational consumers. It does so by introducing the logic of choice and the logic of care to consumption research. Developed by Annemarie , these logics can be seen as ideal types representing contrasting styles of navigating decision-making, ethics, and questions of the good life. The logic of care emphasises attentive doings that aim to improve conditions in specific situations, seeking moderation rather than control, whereas the logic of choice starts out from sovereign individuals making clear-cut decisions. Using examples from a research project on everyday meat consumption practices, we develop a conceptualisation of the central dimensions of these logics within food consumption. The logics of choice and care enact particular worlds and ways of being in them, bringing forth the ontological politics of consumption. Consequently, we advocate for cultivating care in the world of consumption currently dominated by choice, since it enacts a more merciful framing of ethical consumption, emphasising our shared responsibility for ‘as well as possible’ relations without tipping over into guilt.
In contemporary society, it is widely acknowledged that current patterns of consumption are fundamentally unsustainable because a large percentage of emissions comes from consumption related to food, mobility and housing practices. However, current debates and existing research on the need to change daily practices to address climate change tend to focus on single consumption activities, thereby paying too little attention to how practices are embedded in daily routines connected to a multitude of other practices. Instead of considering consumption activities related to food, mobility and housing as separate from one another, we examined how they connect and overlap with each other in the everyday lives of young Danes and what implications this might have for the ability to transition to less resource-intensive consumption. We do so through an analysis of data from interviews, mobilities mapping and photo diaries with 20 households, for a total of 30 young Danes (age 25–35) who are in the process of moving to new housing. With an outset in theories of practice, the article shows how the relations between the householders’ routines concerning food, mobility and housing become interwoven and embedded in bundles and complexes of practices characterised by conveniencisation. We argue that the conveniencisation in the case of bundles and complexes among food, mobility and housing practices create pathways towards more resource-intensive consumption as an implication due to the ‘stickiness’ of co-dependence in complexes and even looser interdependence in the bundling of food, mobility and housing practices in everyday lives.
In this paper we draw on a study of Muslim consumer perceptions and concerns about halal labels and certification practices in two affluent countries: the United Kingdom (UK) (where Muslims are a minority of the population) and United Arab Emirates (UAE) (where Muslims are the majority). The study looked at a stratified sample of 330 Muslim consumers in each country. Our analysis points to a growing demand for variety alongside increasing concern for the presence of food additives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and alcohol in both cases. Expanding demands to label food and other commodities suitable for Muslims with information about quality and standards of production (Gauthier, 2021) are globalising trends, which Muslims everywhere engage with through ‘an Islamic lens – halal’ (Turaeva and Brose, 2020: 301). Our paper wants to address the gap in the literature that very little is known about how consumers perceive the halal concept regarding foodstuffs (see Demirci et al, 2016), and we argue that the expansion and segmentation of halal markets suggests that religious consumerism is affected by religious groups, and also by supply chain actors, and that these markets cannot be controlled by religious authorities. Our research findings provide fresh insight into the existing understanding of religion and consumption, pointing to the geographical specificities of processes of politicisation of halal consumption: the rise of new Muslim youth subcultures in the UK and the coexistence of growing processes of secularisation with ‘halalisation’ in the UAE.
Excessive meat consumption is associated with environmental, ethical and public health concerns. Substituting meat with plant-based alternatives has been located as a key strategy for consumers to reduce their meat intake. While a growing body of research seeks to measure consumers’ acceptance of substitute foods, less attention has been paid to how meat substitution is organised through everyday practices. Based on 50 interviews with consumers with varying levels of meat consumption in Norway, this paper explores how substitution is accomplished in everyday life, and how substitutes are leveraged in the project of meat reduction. A theoretical framework connecting theories of social practice and food qualification allowed investigating substitution as a contextually contingent process rather than the outcome of a simple product swap. The paper finds that many participants were open to the idea of meat substitution, and meatless meals could be acceptable and often desirable. However, substitution was complicated by a prevalent scepticism towards prefabricated substitute products and lacking competence to provide home-cooked alternatives fulfilling expectations in established food practices. The paper argues that ‘qualifying’ foods as substitutes depends on a range of factors beyond the material reconstruction of meatiness present in prefabricated products, problematising the idea of substitution as a straightforward strategy for meat reduction so long as consumers are motivated and/or have access to plant-based options. Shifting consumption from meat to plant-based alternatives require fundamental changes in the organisation of food environments and eating practices beyond measures targeting consumer attitudes or increasing the availability of convenient substitute products.
Meat alternatives may play an important role in sustainable food transitions. However, numerous barriers to the increased consumption of these products have been identified. This paper explores the consumption of meat alternatives in relation to ‘foodyism’, understood here as contemporary discourses and practices of gourmet food glorifying ‘exoticism’ and ‘authenticity’. Foodyism can be viewed as a relevant cultural barrier to the increased uptake of meat alternatives, especially due to its adherence to the notion of authenticity. The paper argues that the cultural and symbolic tension between foodyism and meat alternatives must be sufficiently resolved if meat alternatives are to play a key role in sustainable food transitions. Accordingly, inspired by practice theoretical approaches in consumption research, and based on an analysis of qualitative data collected in Finland in 2020 through an online questionnaire (N=448, of which 49 were included in the final analysis), the paper focuses on describing the reconciliation of foodyism and meat alternatives already evident in the food-related practices of food practitioners. The performances of reconciliation described in this paper are characterised by ‘looking beyond individual ingredients’, ‘laborious and skilful cooking’, and the meanings of home food and creativity. The results suggest that the ways of ‘doing foodyism’ may be changing in the wake of the current ecological crises, and the paper argues that the new patterns are worth advocating in efforts to advance the practical and symbolic acceptance of meat alternatives.
In this conversation Sophia Efstathiou and Rebeca Ibáñez Martín discuss how a love for the animal you are going to eat, or gustar, offers an alternative to industrial animal husbandry. They discuss how changing relationships between humans and animals in intensive farming mediated by technologies of effacement break these attachments, ironically allowing for the animal to be replaced. Looking to ethnographic work and situated analyses of working with animals opens up possibilities for different ways of being with animals. Meat is performatively constituted, and it can be constituted differently and less violently.
The aim of this paper is to empirically explore and conceptualise how marketing and markets shape the formation of edibility in the context of alternative proteins. While meat and dairy substitutes have attracted commercial and scholarly attention, promoting alternative proteins more widely has often proved to be difficult. Alternative proteins often challenge consumers’ understandings of what is safe, appropriate and enjoyable food to consume. Disgust, distrust and even opposition are common consumer reactions. Taking a constructivist market studies approach and drawing on an ethnographic study of the marketing and consumption of plant-based substitutes, we explore the work performed by marketing to overcome these problems and make plant-based substitutes edible. Making use of the concepts of market device and qualification, the analysis shows that plant-based substitutes are constructed as edible in two ways. First, through productising and the related practices of packaging, disclosing, aestheticising and branding, plant-based substitutes are qualified as safe, enjoyable and appropriate for consumption. Second, through animating plant-based substitutes are linked to established food traditions, social eating and the performance of family, thereby creating a meaningful context for this food. It is through this dual move that plant-based substitutes become edible. Our analysis shows that edibility formation went beyond merely making plant-based substitutes tasty or acceptable. The market devices studied worked to construct plant-based substitutes as a much-needed resource for everyday (plant-based) food practices.
This commentary is a reflection on cultured meat and, more generally, food innovation, articulated from the perspective of political ecology (for a proposal around the ‘political ecology of food’ see ). This approach allows to critically investigate the status and role of novel foods in the context of the ecologic crisis, highlighting the complex entanglements of power, labour and value that subtend processes of food innovation and shape imaginaries of future food systems, as well as pathways of sustainability. As such, political ecology also calls for a reflection on food politics at large, envisioning transformative practices that question current arrangements of gender, class, race, species. In its unwillingness to ‘solve’ or close down the vast problem of food innovation, political ecology highlights ambiguities, risks, but also opportunities, as tools to guide a radical political imagination around food in the context of the contemporary ecological crisis. This stands in contrast with the polarising and partial way in which cultured meat tends to be represented in present public debates. The Italian ‘ban’ on cultured meat that is likely to be introduced is particularly interesting and it will serve as a starting point for this commentary.
Current meat consumption trends are associated with extensive resource use, environmental degradation, and detrimental effects on animal and human health, making meat reduction a core sustainability target. The experiences of meat reducers, often conceptualised as flexitarians, have gradually attracted more academic attention. This literature has shown that in many cases meat reducers do not radically reduce their meat intake and have untangled a complex web of factors contributing to meat consumption, reduction and avoidance. This article contributes to a nuanced understanding of the experiences, approaches and challenges faced by meat reducers. The data was collected through in-depth interviews with 26 self-declared meat reducers in Norway. By framing consumption as embedded in social practices, this article highlights how broader cultural, social and material conditions structure eating and hence meat consumption. A central finding is that through processes of socialisation and habituation, performances of eating often conform to the prevailing conventions inscribed in the socio-material environment in which they are embedded. We thus question the popular depictions of individuals as efficient drivers of dietary changes and highlight the many factors involved in reproducing the ‘normalness’ of meat-intense diets, demonstrating how individual intentions, choices and habits are themselves rooted in, and circumscribed by, prevailing conventions, that is, practices.