Women's Food Practices, Risk and Responsibility: Constructing Healthy Food Through Lifestyle and Environmental Risks and Place

Barbara Parker

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    285 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    This thesis examines how women living in Wagga Wagga and the
    Riverina region of Australia, and Thunder Bay and northwestern Ontario,
    Canada construct healthy and risky food through their everyday food
    practices. Food choice is fraught with uncertainty as nutrition information
    and food risks overlap with novel discourses about the environmental
    impacts of food production. Achieving health is a central preoccupation of
    contemporary health-risk societies and food practices are a principle means
    to this end. Women, through their role as health guardians, are accountable
    for food practices because of the gendered responsibility they have for the
    health of others. Through consideration of intersectionality, which includes
    life course in conjunction with place, I examine the social meanings
    participants attribute to healthy and risky food as they navigate global and
    local food systems.

    My findings demonstrate that participants’ constructions of lifestyle
    and environmental risk intersect with food choice while at the same time,
    shape subjectivities and identities. Participants understand the lifestyle risks
    that stem from well-known public health nutrition discourses and novel
    nutritionism ideology, which prescribe strong dietary advice. Emerging
    discourses about industrialized food production, which are constructed
    through place or where one lives, however, complicates these lifestyle
    health risks. To make sense of these shifting meanings, I introduce the
    concept of food integrity to account for wider food politics of environmental
    risk in the current global-local food system as these are negotiated through health and risk, central public health strategies of governance in
    contemporary western society. It is through participants’ constructions of lifestyle and environmental risks relating to food choice that we are able to
    uncover how matters of food production overlap with decisions about food
    consumption, or what to eat in women’s everyday food practices.

    I demonstrate that women’s assessment of healthy and risky foods
    take into account environmental risks relating to food production, which
    overlaps with their consideration of lifestyle risks and novel nutritionism
    discourses. Thus, participants’ constructions of health and good nutrition
    are reoriented through their understanding of food integrity and the specific
    socio-cultural meanings inferred through place on particular food risks.
    Moreover, participants assume individual responsibility for the environment
    through their food practices and intentionally make food choices that are
    ‘greener’ or better for the environment than those produced through the
    dominant industrial food system. Notably, participant’s engagement with
    these dynamic discourses produces unintended consequences, which serve
    to differentiate eaters through the formation of new subjectivities and
    identities such as the “ethical eater” for example.

    The study draws primarily on qualitative data collected through indepth,
    semi-structured interviews conducted with 64 women ranging in age
    from twenty to eighty-four from Australia and Canada.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Charles Sturt University
    Supervisors/Advisors
    • Alston, Margaret, Principal Supervisor
    • Bell, Karen, Co-Supervisor
    Award date27 Jul 2012
    Place of PublicationAustralia
    Publisher
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

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