That could be me
Identity and identification in discourses about food, meat, and animal welfare
Keywords:animal welfare, cohesive harmony, food discourse, identity, register theory, systemic functional linguistics
In this paper I test the capacity for functional linguistics, in particular register theory (Halliday 2002) and cohesive harmony analysis (Hasan 1984), to illuminate how habitual patterns of language make meat-eating and factory-farming seem natural, and how certain counter-discourses work to expose the seams in such practices. My primary example is an award-winning animal welfare campaign based on mock recipe cards. While such genre-bending clearly aims at bypassing reader defenses, the text’s real achievement is to combine semantic features whose co-occurrence is normally blocked by the cultural-linguistic system, allowing it to project a sophisticated food identity for readers and construe a social identity for the recipe ‘ingredients’ (pigs), realized largely through bizarre cohesive harmony. Implications discussed include relations between ‘major and minor identities’ (Lakoff 2006), the mobilization of identity in dominant and emerging ideologies, and the limits on who/what can count as a social subject that might ‘perform’ an identity.
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