Child Veganism, and Alternative Milks in Switzerland

These projects, are run by by CPCS Associate Edmée Ballif 

Child Veganism as a Reproductive Panic

In this research project, I analyse the figure of the vegan child in Switzerland as a symbol of fears and hopes about the future. How is child veganism perceived in Switzerland? What are the reasons for the promotion or for the criticism of child veganism? How are health, environment and the future of humanity entangled in child feeding choices?

The project runs from 2020 to 2022 and is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (Early.Postdoc grant). It is hosted by the Reproductive Sociology Research Group at the University of Cambridge and the Centre for Parenting Culture Studies at the University of Kent

Milk wars: Gender, class and nation in contemporary parenting culture 

This research projects aims to fill gaps in parenting culture studies with a qualitative case study of the meanings attached to alternative milks – defined as plant-based (soy, almond, chestnut, etc.) and non-cow dairy milks (goat, camel, donkey, etc.) – for infants and children in Switzerland. Infant and child feeding have rightly been analysed as exemplary domains of what parenting culture studies have named the ‘intensive mothering’ culture, as mothers are under pressure to devote substantial time and energy to the provision of good-quality food for their offspring. Recent scholarship suggests that this intensive mothering culture is being reinforced under the influence of global social movements such as environmentalism and the animal rights movement, which translate into even more maternal work by complexifying consumption choices.

This project will make crucial contributions to the understanding of contemporary parenting norms and how they contribute to the reproduction of inequalities, at a time when the climate crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic are worsening gender and social inequities in Switzerland and around the world.

The first research axis aims at mapping the values attached to different alternative milks by analysing how they articulate with one another and how they specifically relate to environmental and/or animal rights concerns. The second research axis investigates the articulation of infant and child feeding with gender, class and nation by asking how maternal and paternal roles figure into the discursive comparison of alternative milks and how alternative milks support social distinction based on class and the construction of national identity. Switzerland is an excellent site for such a case study because a controversy has been developing during the last fifteen years around the use of alternative milks and given the symbolic importance of (cow’s) milk in Switzerland’s national identity.

The project is funded by a Postdoc Mobility fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation. It will be hosted by Dr. Charlotte Faircloth and Dr. Rebecca O’Connell, Thomas Coram Research Unit at UCL and by Prof. Norah MacKendrick, Rutgers University’s Department of Sociology.