Portraits of Veganism: A Comparative Analysis of Vegan-Promoting Documentary Films




Christopher, Allison

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Through a qualitative discourse analysis of two vegan-promoting documentary films, Forks over Knives (2011) and Vegucated (2010), this study provides new insight into the underrepresented subject of veganism. This study uses insights from cultural theories to address a significant gap in prior scholarship by examining how the medium of documentary film is used to construct veganism by this subculture's advocates, thereby complementing previous research on identity negotiation among vegan individuals. Discourse analysis of these two vegan-promoting films reveals divergent definitions of veganism and competing strategies for the promotion of veganism. Forks over Knives generally promotes what I call "health veganism" rooted in scientific arguments about the dietary benefits of veganism. By contrast, Vegucated promotes what I term "holistic veganism" that, while encompassing personal health benefits, also promotes animal rights advocacy and environmental consciousness. These competing portrayals are examined using subcultural identity theory to explain how the vegan subculture is both distinct from and engaged with the cultural mainstream, albeit in different ways within each of these films. Veganism is a distinctive dietary lifestyle, but maintains cultural relevance by drawing on broader cultural discourses of individualism, science, healthy living, and environmental awareness.


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Discourse Analysis, Documentary Films, Qualitative, Vegan