In 1959 C. Wright Mills wrote of ‘the promise’ of sociology in highlighting the broader structural links between individual biographies, and the historical context that shapes them. Now, more than half a century later, sociology has been used to inform a range of perspectives on current social issues. While much of the sociological field is focused on human experiences, sociological animal studies have played a crucial role in highlighting that the social world is a shared one — with many other species entangled in relations that are presumed to be human specific. As the consequences of human exploitation of nonhuman others manifest with increasing severity in climate events, environmental destruction and nonhuman suffering, our multispecies scholarly endeavours are needed now more than ever. Sociology, with its attention to the manifestation and influence of power in everyday life, is well placed to not only highlight the structural roots of multispecies social issues, but to critique the anthroparchal construction of knowledge that further contributes to this oppression.
The importance of this scientific inquiry is not lost on animal advocates. Vegan pioneers consistently advocated science as a means to understand optimal human diet and nutritional requirements, create viable alternatives to cruel animal products, and validate the connection they perceived between human and nonhuman injustices. Indeed, veganism was, in many ways, an invention of modern scientific thinking as activists challenged mainstream dogmas with their fact-finding mission to expand knowledge for the betterment of global society. When the Vegan Society formed in the midst of World War 2, its founders envisioned veganism as a promising solution to many sufferings arising with modernity including sickness, famine, war, environmental destruction, and alienation from human, nonhuman and natural communities. As we know, sociology also emerged in response to modernization and its many unexpected consequences, and many practitioners (like Mills) certainly believe in its capacity to serve the social good.
As sociologists are well aware, information exchange between peer scholars, field experts, and community stakeholders is vital for expanding our knowledge and improving the quality of our research. Early vegan activists (having forged their fledgling vegan society in response to the stonewalling of the Vegetarian Society) were especially keen to maintain a robust, critical dialogue for the benefit of the movement and its constituency. Vegan sociology, then, emerges from a long tradition of reflexivity, discourse and debate in both activist and scholarly spaces that is rooted in a rigorous commitment to social justice. With these considerations in mind, this online event spotlights the promise of a new sociology, one that is informed by a specifically vegan epistemological stance. In line with the mission of both veganism and sociology, it also situates knowledge in explicitly anti-oppressive stances that challenge animal exploitation alongside other sites of domination such as white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism and ableism. We ask contributors to consider what a sociology that is explicitly vegan looks like, and how this might be employed to conduct scholarship that is for nonhuman animals.
This online conference, organised by the International Association of Vegan Sociologists will be held online from October 9th-10th, 2021.
More information can be found here.