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Anthropology of Family Food Practices

Constraints, Adjustments, Innovations


Edited By Marie-Pierre Julien and Nicoletta Diasio

What are the factors that govern our food choices at the beginning of the 21st century? Obvious answers to this question would point to social and cultural habits, but the issue is far more complex than this. Changes in national and international economies, the end of political regimes, migration, but also micro-events such as retirement, the birth of a child, varying school times and seasons, or innovations in industrial design, these are all potential factors that may generate a transformation of family eating habits. The meso- and micro-social levels are deeply intertwined in everyday life, and this book focuses on the connections between the two levels and on how they merge and overlap in the creation of new eating habits. In this book the reader will find scholars who analyse how families and households experiment, circumvent and appropriate technical, political, and social modifications in their family food situations, and how they create freedom and innovation under constraint. Grounded in strong ethnographic field research in several countries (Belgium, France, Italy, Norway, Romania, South-Africa), this book is also a contribution to the use of qualitative methods within the domestic space. It will be a welcome source of information for researchers and students in the fields of anthropology and sociology, for industrial designers and for any reader interested in studying social changes from the perspective of food practices.

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Conclusions: Creating Freedom under Constraint (Nicoletta Diasio)


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Conclusions: Creating Freedom under Constraint

Nicoletta DIASIO

Maintaining food habits when one has become dependent in retirement, combining the contradictory demands of school, work, leisure and festivities in one’s weekly food shopping, creating continuity when migration has caused disruption in the food model, broadening one’s repertoire by opening up to food products from around the world without necessarily changing the food culture of one’s “community”: these are some examples of the field work presented in this collection, which offers a wide range of constraints that drive consumers to generate a number of resources to circumvent, control and go beyond them. Indeed, one of our starting points was that we wanted to show how these constraints are “habilitating,” in other words, to find out how, far from hampering change, these constraints generate it and allow for the construction of new ways of doing things.

Distinguishing between transition and change

Daily life has here been analyzed as a laboratory of experiments, problem-solving and unpredictable factors that arise in the course of events. This might be a transformation in the family structure (the birth of a child, a separation, or a partner becoming disabled or dying), a structural transformation, like the end of a political regime or the transition to a new economic system, an event of social mobility, or bifurcations in the course of one’s life. Disruptions of daily life expand know-how, engage other repertoires of action, and cause a...

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