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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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Food Daily Inventions under Age Constraints: the Case of Dependent Retired Couples (Philippe Cardon)


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Food Daily Inventions under Age Constraints: the Case of Dependent Retired Couples

Philippe CARDON


This chapter sets out to understand the place of technical and social innovation in the aging experience of retired couples living at home, viewed through their dietary practices. By innovation is meant the fact of introducing new material tools, one or more new activities, or calling on third parties to face the effects of aging on the everyday household diet. Such innovation is part of the letting go process, in other words the ability of individuals or couples to negotiate and reorganize their material and human environment in the face of illness (Caradec, 2008).117 In this regard, innovation is a social process (which in this case occurs within the home) involving the ability of individuals or couples to make use of new tools or undertake new activities to face problems associated with aging. When physical or cognitive disabilities arise, how do couples go about maintaining or giving up their dietary habits? The question is all the more crucial as qualitative research shows that in retired households, diet is closely associated with self-maintenance.

To address this question, the diet of retired households and its specific characteristics must first be described. In so doing, everyday dietary practices will be shown to occupy a central place in the everyday life and aging experience of retired couples both in the food activities aging entails and the...

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