Jun
07

Interviews: The Beginning Stages

Over the past week, I completed and transcribed my first interview of the summer with a vegan! Although my dad is a vegan, which made it easy to find vegan contacts when performing my research last summer in my hometown, I am not as connected with the vegan community in Williamsburg. This has made it slightly more difficult to find potential interviewees. However, I was able to locate a well-known vegan activist in the area through Facebook and interview both he and his wife at their home. These interview subjects were particularly helpful because they came from an animal activist background. When it comes to going vegan, most individuals make the change for one of three reasons: health, environmental issues, or ethics surrounding eating animals. Most of my interviewees last summer were primarily focused on health, eating a “plant-based” diet to reverse health conditions and medical problems. However, these new participants were extremely motivated by a desire to stop the terrible treatment of animals resulting from the consumption of animal products. Having never spoken to anyone coming from this background, it was interesting to see how their views differed from those of other vegans, and how they distinguished themselves from plant-based eaters.

I am particularly interested in investigating which linguistic methods different individuals use to evaluate the vegan lifestyle vs. a non-vegan one. According to the Appraisal framework developed by Martin and White (2005), there are three ways to evaluate something: by using affect (words of emotion), appreciation (aesthetic values such as beauty), or judgment (referencing social norms such as normality or morality). In my previous research, I noticed that judgment tended to be the preferred method of the plant-based eaters I spoke with to evaluate a vegan vs. non-vegan lifestyle. However, while this method of evaluation was also prevalent in my interview this week, I have noticed in my initial analysis that affect is much more prevalent in the transcript as well. This may be because the motivation for vegans who want to protect animals is more deeply rooted in emotion than it is for plant-based eaters, and animal activists may feel that using emotion is an easy way to communicate with non-vegans, since most individuals share feelings of sympathy for animals.

Overall, my first interview was extremely interesting, and my subjects have been very helpful in connecting me with some other vegans in the area. I am hoping to find a few college-aged vegans to speak with, since they may offer a still different perspective on the issues, but I am struggling to find any, so the search continues! However, today I have a Skype interview with a vegan all the way in Arizona. Let the research continue!

 

Martin, J.R. and White, P.R.R. (2005). The language of evaluation: Appraisal in English. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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