Spiritual vegetarianism: identity in everyday life of Thai non-traditional religious cult members

Makboon, Boonyalakha
Norris, Sigrid
De Saint-Georges, Ingrid
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Doctor of Philosophy
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Auckland University of Technology

This thesis examines how the participants who are Thai and vegetarians integrate vegetarianism into their lives, and how they produce and maintain their vegetarian identity element. This video-ethnographic study was conducted in Thailand over the course of five months, with particular attention to three participants who are members of non-traditional religious cults in Thailand, where vegetarianism is a normal practice. Utilizing multimodal (inter)action analysis (Norris, 2004, 2011a), I conducted a micro analysis by teasing apart the participants’ real-time interactions, investigating how different modes come to play together to make certain actions possible. The analysis also incorporates other data from observational notes, sociolinguistic interviews and photographs. I discovered that the participants produced a spiritual vegetarian identity element in accordance with their religious belief. The participants produced multiple identity elements, including but not limited to their spiritual vegetarian identity element, at differentiated levels of the participants’ attention/awareness. At the time of the study, my participants did not continuously produce their spiritual vegetarian identity element, and thus a spiritual vegetarian identity was not their most salient identity element. However, I found that vegetarianism plays a significant role in the participants’ lives as they always produced their spiritual vegetarian identity element in connection with other identity elements. This results from the fact that these identity elements were developed within a religious context which was embedded in the historical body (Nishida, 1985) of the participants. Religion has exerted a substantial influence on many aspects of their lives and their resulting identity elements.

Identity , Multimodality , Religious belief , Vegetarianism
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