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What goes around meat eating, comes around: vegetarianism as a status marker in contemporary India

Abstract : Since 2010, more than two hundred cases of violence related to the sale or alleged consumption of beef or non-vegetarian products, against religious minorities and low castes, have occurred in India. How can food trigger such violent attacks? In a context of deep transformations of the social structure, my dissertation suggests that these incidents mirror symbolic struggles between religious and caste groups, and that they indicate the continued cultural hegemony of the Hindu high castes, of which vegetarianism is one of the most emblematic markers. Based on secondary analysis of quantitative surveys and on fieldwork conducted in Uttar Pradesh, a region in northern India, I show how this diet remains salient in the contemporary period. In doing so, I highlight the importance of religion and caste in food lifestyles and I uncover the mechanisms of diffusion of cultural practices, whether through processes of cultural emulation deriving from class mobility or in relation to the stigmatization of the Muslim minority. I also highlight the plurality of repertoires of justification for vegetarianism, particularly within the most affluent and educationally endowed classes. In sum, the convergence between the different meanings attributed to this diet – ranging from religious, economic, political, dietary, and even environmental – favors the centrality of vegetarianism in the Indian social space, which in turn plays a key role in the social dynamics of status, integration and stigmatization in contemporary India.
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Submitted on : Saturday, May 21, 2022 - 5:20:25 PM
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Mathieu Ferry. What goes around meat eating, comes around: vegetarianism as a status marker in contemporary India. Sociology. Institut d'études politiques de Paris - Sciences Po, 2021. English. ⟨NNT : 2021IEPP0034⟩. ⟨tel-03620008⟩

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