Plant-based Diets in Social Context: Three Papers

Open Access
DeLessio-Parson, Anne
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 22, 2017
Committee Members:
  • Nancy Kay Luke, Dissertation Advisor
  • Ashton Michael Verdery, Committee Chair
  • Diane Helen Felmlee, Committee Member
  • Jennifer Lynne Van Hook, Committee Member
  • Clio Maria Andris, Outside Member
  • Nancy Kay Luke, Committee Chair
  • vegetarianism
  • veganism
  • social networks
  • respondent-driven sampling
  • sociology of food
  • gender
Vegetarianism represents a growing global trend. I examine this phenomenon in two outlier settings in the Global South: India, with a long history of vegetarianism, and Argentina, with a long history of high beef consumption. I begin with an overview of vegetarianism and this dissertation. In Chapter 2, I turn to India, where I examine vegetarian practice, and I ask: is vegetarianism health protective against obesity, and do these effects vary by neighborhood? I find that vegetarianism on average protects against obese status except in mega cities, where unhealthy food environments may reveal worrisome trends. In Chapters 3 and 4, I focus on vegetarian identity, attitudes, and beliefs, and I present the results of the Social Networks and Pathways of Vegetarianism in Argentina survey. First, I examine gender differences and identify three themes: women as pioneers, meat and masculinity, and vegetarianism as identity and critical worldview. I find women become vegetarian at higher rates and earlier in time than men. Men retain more of a connection to meat-centric spaces, but both women and men develop critical worldviews as part of vegetarian practice. Next, in Chapter 4, I investigate differences beyond the gender binary by using three categorizations: straight women, straight men, and queer-identified. I find that straight men and queer-identified report larger social networks than straight women, whose vegetarianism may exist more under the radar in the Argentine context. Finally, I conclude and suggest that vegetarianism is an important practice, identity, and set of attitudes to study from a sociological and demographic perspective as it emerges as part of the pathway towards a more sustainable future.