ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Anthropologically speaking: Shifting from food choice to food and eating as social practices- Implications for researchers and research

Lisa Schubert, Wendy Foley

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 8 - Law Building, Room 100
Date: 2012-07-10 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Last modified: 2012-03-28


The starting point for this paper is a critique of ‘food choice’ as the preeminent construct used by nutritionists for studying food and eating related behaviours, and the risks involved when such research plays a dominant role in informing public health policy and interventions.

After Delormier et al (2009), we have adopted an approach to studying food and eating in domestic units and mother-infant dyads that has shifted away from a behavioural orientation towards a social practice orientation. We suggest that employing research methods which place food and eating practices in their social context, recognising that food preferences, health knowledge and personal food choice ideologies are mediated through everyday patterns of living, available resources, and competing priorities, plays a critical role in informing more socially engaged and theoretically rigorous policy and interventions.

This paper will use examples of qualitatively driven and multidisciplinary approaches to research methodology from a range of the authors’ nutrition research projects wherre we have been concerned with observing and recording actual experiences and the meanings behind them. The range of implications that flow from this distinction are discussed. Methods informed by critical, participatory, feminist and strengths-based approaches have been incorporated. This body of work contributes to a subspeciality within the anthropology of nutrition that foregrounds the notion that all dietary practices are socially and culturally constructed. The epistemological, methodological and policy implications that nutrition research with such an orientation can make will be explored.

Delormier, T., K. L. Frohlich, et al. (2009). "Food and eating as social practice - understanding eating patterns as social phenomena and implications for public health." Sociology of Health and Illness 31(2): 215-228.