Alternative green food consumer culture in a risk society

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University of New Brunswick


The purpose of this dissertation is to add to existing accounts of the extent to which individuals may associate broad cultural meanings with their consumption of environmentally green foods. I started by doing an inductive thematic review of the literature on environmental risk perception and food consumption patterns. I then initiated a qualitative interview-based research strategy in the symbolic interactionist tradition. Original empirical material was generated from interview data on how informants, who were dedicated to environmentally green food consumption, constructed their worldviews. Semi-structured interviews were conducted and analyzed for 14 theoretically sampled informants. Overall, the worldview of this group of informants forms an alternative subculture, concerned with environmental sustainability and risk, which is at the fringe of mainstream consumer culture. Initially, two significant concepts emerged from the interviews; holism and balance. Then theoretic sampling of the literature was done and other highly relevant concepts from Low (2004) and Prothero, McDonagh and Dobscha (2010), were drawn on and adapted, based on what informants said. I provide conceptual models that reflect informant experience. I then abstract my analysis of the subjectivist informant data to place the experiences of the informants within a broad social context, and conceptualize their environmentally green consumption decisions as social process (Prus, 1987). In these ways, this dissertation contributes to scholarly knowledge.