Experiences of the food environment and the role of the ‘routine’ in producing food practices: an ethnography of Sandwell residents
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Despite a sustained academic interest in food environments and their impact upon dietary practices, relatively little is known about the ways in which individuals interact with the food environment. The multiple and complex factors that influence food choices are difficult to investigate, especially in the family setting where individual and collective practices intersect. This thesis investigates how people perform food practices and unpacks how specific contexts shape, promote and constrain food behaviours. The case study through which this is examined is that of the food practices of 26 residents of Sandwell, a uniformly deprived metropolitan borough in the West Midlands. Through ethnographically collecting accounts and observations of how residents performed food practices, both in the home and while shopping for food, highly routinized behaviours were revealed. The notion of routinized decision making, as it appears in social science research, is developed and adapted to incorporate descriptions of general approaches to routine food behaviours. The novel concept of routines-of-practice is employed to characterise these routines in terms of agency, attitudes towards individualism, and reliance on environmental and contextual cues. Food shopping practices are positioned, to an extent, as acts of consumerism performed in the pervasive consumption environment of the supermarket. The home, by contrast, was depicted as a site of both privacy and responsibility. The ways in which responsibility was interpreted and enacted dictated how family meals and routine home food behaviours were structured. By looking at food practices in terms of repetitive, context specific and often uncritical behaviours, this thesis highlights the importance of place in moulding food practices. Understanding how people interact and interpret their environment has been underestimated in diet-related health policy and promotion. This thesis specifically examines the way food practices are influenced by environment and context at the micro level.
AuthorsThompson, Claire Pilar
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