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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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Introduction. Between Constraint and Innovation: the Transformations of Domestic Food Practices (Marie-Pierre Julien)


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Between Constraint and Innovation: the Transformations of Domestic Food Practices

Marie-Pierre JULIEN

What are the factors that govern our food choices at the beginning of the 21st century? Are they socially constructed biochemical pleasures, economically directed biological necessities, political and environmental issues, social norms, habitus or sanitary regulations? The transformations in food production and distribution techniques of the past 200 years have occurred in synergy with the various forms of industrialization, urbanization and globalization. These changes have given rise to new possibilities of purchasing and stocking up on food, to new consumer practices (Flandrin et Montanari, 1996) and to flavors previously unknown to a part of the population (Capatti, 1989), and have brought along new social, political, technical and sanitary constraints. In Europe as well as everywhere else in the world, health policies that attempt to regulate eating practices are one of the branches of biopower. Historically speaking, this trend has been spreading since the 19th century, with the political organization of nation states, and exists in a variety of times and purposes depending on the country. Moreover, new changes are on the way. While current production systems in all their variety and contradiction seem to be able to feed the eight billion people counted on earth in 2018, they are heavily criticized: a part of humanity remains underfed or is starving, most supply systems are depleting the planet’s resources, and sanitary scandals that constitute a danger for human...

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