Research Repository

Spiritual Agency and Sustainability Transitions Exploring Food Practices in Three Hare Krishna Eco-Communities

Lestar, Tamas (2018) Spiritual Agency and Sustainability Transitions Exploring Food Practices in Three Hare Krishna Eco-Communities. PhD thesis, University of Essex.


Download (9MB) | Preview


This thesis explores connections between spirituality, diet and system-wide Sustainability Transitions. The pivotal role of food in greenhouse gas emissions is widely acknowledged across disciplines, yet it is under-researched by Sustainability Transitions scholars. Likewise, while sustainable diets comprising of less meat are often associated with spiritual and ethical beliefs, the transitional agency of worldviews has not been conceptualised in the Sustainability Transitions literature. To address this gap, eco-spiritual practices are investigated to understand how vegetarianism is maintained in spiritual communities. Enabling and disabling factors are analysed for potentials of diffusion into broader levels of society. I present findings of qualitative research and fieldwork, which included participant observation and in-depth interviewing in Hare Krishna communities in Europe. Three eco-farms were selected to represent different features of spirituality and ecological commitment. Data collection and analysis were guided by Social Practice Theory which enables close-up scrutinising of eco-spiritual practices. Findings reveal a firm durability of food practices, which contributes to the longevity of Hare Krishna eco-farms. Motivated by their distinct worldview, believers advocate simplification over technological improvements to serve ecological sustainability. Extensive outreach via eco-tourism and food sharing programmes demonstrate a working alternative to development and lifestyles supported by an economics based on unlimited growth. While these attract visitors in high numbers, adherence to religious culture in the form of dress, gender roles and language use may slow the diffusion process into wider society. Lock-in mechanisms in the outside world also work against the up-scaling of less-meat dietary practices, making the work of vegetarian advocacy less effective. By exploring and analysing Krishna practices, this thesis makes two key contributions. First: the conception of agency for change in Sustainability Transitions frameworks is extended by the inclusion of spirituality, worldviews, and their corresponding lifestyle practices. Second: Hare Krishna communities are shown to illustrate a ‘new economics’ which posits demand-side simplifications as a precondition for systemic change.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Essex Business School > Centre for Work, Organisation and Society
Depositing User: Tamas Lestar
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2018 11:32
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2018 11:32

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item