That could be me: identity and identification in discourses about food, meat, and animal welfare
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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’ or ‘negotiate’ identity.