Becoming Vegetarian: An Analysis of the Vegetarian Career Using an Integrated Model of Deviance

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Virginia Tech

This dissertation attempts to explore the nature of a particular food consumption pattern using a number of different deviance theories in order to outline the career path of vegetarianism. Using semi-structured interviews with 45 practicing vegetarians from two regions of the United States, the career path of the vegetarians was developed around David Matza's (1969) theory of becoming deviant. Within each stage of Matza's classic work, more specific theories were applied to explain the friction between vegetarianism and the more socially-accepted practice of meat eating within the United States. The framework of the stages includes the affinity for, affiliation with, and signification of vegetarian ideology and practice. Each stage within the theory is also a stage in the development of the vegetarian identity. The more specific theories utilized to explain phenomena within each particular stage attempt to show a progression from initially being interested in the ideals and practice of vegetarianism to becoming and verbalizing as a mature, practicing vegetarian. Finally, the vegetarians interviewed were asked to give the prognosis for the future of vegetarianism.

accounts, deviant religious conversion, conversion models, integrated theory, deviance, vegetarianism, social learning theory