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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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Temporality and Family Meals: Recurrence is Not Routine. Necessary Disruptions (Marie-Pierre Julien)


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Temporality and Family Meals: Recurrence is Not Routine. Necessary Disruptions

Marie-Pierre JULIEN

The aim of this chapter is to approach the issues of constraint, adjustment, transformation through temporal aspects of food-related activities. By drawing on the sociology of food as well as the anthropology of everyday life, I will attempt to show how food-related temporalities are both imposed by macrosocial power relationships that go beyond and cut across the eaters themselves (Poulain, 2002), but are also empowering (Diasio, 2004; 2010), and are one of the means by which humans “negotiate their relationship with society, culture and events” (Balandier, 1983).

Analyzing time devoted to food in terms of social constraints at the macrosocial level, Alan Warde et al. (2005; 2007; 2012) and Dale Southerton (2007) refuted the idea of a rational eater with freedom to choose, as described by economists and behavioral psychologists—an idea which finds favor with public policy-makers when they want to influence and change habits of consumption judged to be bad for health and for the environment. Inspired by Norbert Elias (1996), these social scientists have shown how the practices of individuals, analyzed by their membership of a sociocultural group, participate in producing socio-economic-political time through social conventions which become institutions:91 so it is that we know when, what, where and how to eat, as Southerton and his colleagues remind us (2012). They regard food practices and their temporality from the viewpoint of their macroeconomic forms...

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