Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Our Bodies Are Battlefields August 26, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 11:30 am
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I’ve noticed a trend in debates about the naturalness of veg*nism. While they of course ignore the fact that naturalness is constructed; they also use the bodies of folks of color to legitimize their arguments on both sides.

People who argue that eating meat is natural utilize these primitivist fantasies of brown folks hunting large game, and living almost exclusively on meat. They paint pictures of Indigenous and African folks as meat eating savages, as primitive folks that prove the naturalness of a meat eating diet. This of course ignores common sense and knowledge. The fact that a large portion of our fruits and vegetables were developed by agriculturists in Africa and the Americas should smack in the face of such arguments that

And the pro-veg*nism arguments often invoke Asia, especially India and East Asia, as a site where veg*nism has always been the norm, homogenizing an entire continent. The arguments consist of detailing how natural the diet is because those people have been doing it forever, and it seems to have a bit of orientalist bent. Of course there are strong vegetarian currents within parts of Asia (but these don’t get included in very much veg*n history. I guess because it becomes constructed as religious and dehistoricized).

I figure this relates to the way veg*n history gets told. As was noted a while back on VoC, Vegan histories are often suspiciously White. People of color get relegated to a sort of vegan anthropology (that is we are used to help understand white folks and get dehistoricized), and are reduced to specimens to prove what works for the human body. Europe’s own traditions of both veg*nism and meat-eating become invisible, or not valid for arguments of naturalness. Folks of color, when used in these arguments are Othered, and reduced from peoplehood to human bodies.