“Just food and joy”: An exploration of diverse community food practices in Liverpool, UK



McDowell, Oliver
(2023) “Just food and joy”: An exploration of diverse community food practices in Liverpool, UK. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Abstract

Sharing meals with others encourages vital exchanges of sociality, learning and politics. How and where we consume food, framed by social and cultural practices, has great importance in shaping why we make decisions around what we eat. Indeed, emotional and affective connections with the site of eating form a fundamental part of how we process food as a material and impacts our relations with place. Understanding these socio-spatial circumstances allows us to better envisage how food choices and ideologies intersect with an individual’s everyday experiences of food to influence their participation, motivation and enjoyment in food practices. Whilst food has long been considered an important part of how we learn to live together in the Anthropocene within diverse economies research, practices around the mealtime remain underexamined in the field. At the same time, there exists an emerging body of work that highlights the importance of communal eating events and new forms of social eating in addressing social and environmental issues in society. This body of research considers the importance of materiality and sociality, yet there remain significant gaps in the significance of affectivity and especially embodiment within these studies. This thesis, a mixed-methods study of a community food space, explores the transformative potential of such spaces, drawing focus on practices of social eating and communal preparation of food. The approach utilises an initially ethnographic methodology, working alongside a social eating group and a community food space in an inner-city neighbourhood of Liverpool, UK called Squash. Against a backdrop of COVID-19, the research then engages with a remote methodology, relying primarily on video and phone interviewing to draw out visceral experiences from participants. Through a focus on how embodied and social interaction around food contributes to subjectivity shifts in participants, this thesis uncovers the importance of affective and collective properties of social cooking, eating and food sharing and the generative potential of these practices in cultivating different food subjects. In doing this, it argues that the ‘how we know’ that contributes to our food knowledge has a vital role in building relationships with food and others in alimentary environments. As part of this, it argues that a framing based around diverse visceral imaginaries assists in highlighting the role of learning to be affected in shifting economic subjectivities, drawing attention to the role of everyday practices related to food in building other possible worlds. Addressing critiques of ‘alternative’ food as single entity in relation to a dominant food system, this PhD research connects a visceral geographies standpoint and a diverse economies approach to understand the food system as diverse and diffuse. This approach helps this research to identify new ethical coordinates, negotiations of difference and diverse practices within the food economy, addressing some of the gaps within literature on social and communal eating. By considering the body as the starting point for economic politics within this, this thesis contributes towards J.K Gibson Graham’s project of developing understandings of the economy as a domain of difference.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Divisions: Faculty of Science and Engineering > School of Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 30 Aug 2023 08:23
Last Modified: 30 Aug 2023 08:23
DOI: 10.17638/03171840
Supervisors:
  • North, Peter
  • Hall, Sarah Marie
  • Davies, Andrew
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3171840