- Critical Perspectives on Veganism ed. by Jodey Castricano and Rasmus R. Simonsen
Critical Perspectives on Veganism is an edited collection situated explicitly in the field of "vegan studies." This is clear from both the foreword by Melanie Joy and Jens Tuider (pp. v–xv) and the introduction from Jodey Castricano and Rasmus R. Simonsen (pp. 1–11). As a discipline, vegan studies was provocatively called for in The Vegan Studies Project by Laura Wright; while the only mention of Wright in Critical Perspectives on Veganism is in the introduction (p. 3), this is unsurprising, as Wright's book was published only in 2015.
Vegan studies, of course, is about veganism. Despite this, veganism is not foregrounded in all of the book's chapters. In some cases, this is less problematic. Juawana Grant and Brittni MacKenzie-Dale look to Lisa Simpson (The Simpsons) and Darlene Conner (Roseanne) as fictional vegetarian-(eco)feminist "killjoys" (pp. 307–329). The characters are vegetarians, not vegans, but the authors do a commendable job of grounding the significance of their analysis for vegan studies. In "'Are Vegetarians Good Fighters?': World War I and the Rise of Meatless Patriotism" (pp. 227–244), Adam D. Shprintzen relates an overlooked chapter in the history of vegetarianism to contemporary practices. Though not explicitly tied to veganism, the contribution is valuable.
"The Compassion Manifesto: An Ethics for Art + Design and Animals" (pp. 155–180) by Julie Andreyev again says little about veganism. I can see the motivation for its inclusion, but was a little put off by Andreyev's talk of "pollen-based minds" and "soil wisdom" (p. 161). Francesco Buscemi explores the pro-meat attitudes of four celebrity chefs (pp. 331–348); the study is grounded in the idea of carnism, but I think the chapter could have been better tied to veganism.
It was, however, David L. Clark's contribution, a reprint from Palgrave's Cultures of Taste/Theories of Appetite: Eating Romanticism entitled "Hegel, Eating: Schelling and the Carnivorous Virility of Philosophy" (pp. 93–120), that I truly struggled to place. I am not sure what the essay was about at all, but there was certainly no mention of veganism. There was one passing mention of vegetarianism (p. 115)—in relation to the diets of Hindu Brahmin—but by this point in the essay I was so lost in Clark's complex metaphors of philosophy as food and his unforgiving retellings of Schelling, Hegel, and others that I could make little of it.
Is there, then, a central tenet of vegan studies as presented in Critical Perspectives on Veganism? The preface and introduction point strongly toward ideas of carnism, though references to carnism or Joy—with whom the theory originates—are present in only half of the chapters. There is also no central methodology uniting the contributions. Some are literary: Joshua Schuster's [End Page 252] compelling chapter analyzes Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and then moves into a critique of Derrida's relationship to veganism, ultimately conceptualizing vegans as "sovereign unsovereign" (pp. 203–223), and Parag Kumar Deka looks at the place of veganism in the life and work of J. M. Coetzee (pp. 181–202). More empirical work is found in Ophélie Véron's contribution; she uses social-scientific methodologies to explore the impact of French vegan food blogs (pp. 287–305). A. G. Holdier utilizes analytic philosophy to convincingly argue that the interhuman harms caused by non-veganism are sufficient to ground the moral necessity of (pseudo-)veganism (pp. 41–66). Jeanette Rowley draws upon critical human rights theory, seeking to draw together human rights and veganism (pp. 67–92). This was another contribution with which I struggled; Rowley's conclusions felt under-supported, and her prose was often dense.
Even if Critical Perspectives on Veganism does not clearly offer a unifying theory or methodology for vegan studies, it does offer themes that—undoubtedly—belong in the discipline. I...