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Meat as a Pharmakon: An Exploration of the Biosocial Complexities of Meat Consumption.


In contemporary dietary advice, meat is depicted as a pharmakon: it is believed to either heal or poison the human body (and mind). Often, it also serves as a scapegoat for a wide range of public health issues and other societal problems. Related attitudes, practices, and beliefs pertain to a demarcated mode of thinking or episteme that is characteristic for the so-called post-domestic or industrialized societies. The latter are not only typified by an abundant yet largely concealed production of meat, but increasingly also by moral crisis and confusion about its nutritional meaning. For an improved appreciation of the ambiguous position of meat in human health and disease, as well as the concomitant scattering into different subject positions (e.g., the omnivore, flexitarian, vegetarian, vegan, permaculturalist, and carnivore position), an interdisciplinary approach is required. To this end, the current study tentatively combines food research with a selection of (post-structuralist) concepts from the humanities. The aim is to outline a historical and biosocial need for meat (as well as its rejection) and to analyze how its transformative effects have contributed to a polarized discourse on diet and well-being in academia and society at large. Excessive categorization (for instance with respect to meat's alleged naturalness, normalness, necessity, and niceness) and Manichean thinking in binary opposites are among the key factors that lead to impassioned yet often sterile debates between the advocates and adversaries of meat eating in a post-truth context. © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.