Feeding Distinction: Constrictions and Constructions of Dietary Compliance

Oncini, Filippo (2018) Feeding Distinction: Constrictions and Constructions of Dietary Compliance. PhD thesis, University of Trento.

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In this work, moving back and forth along complementary perspectives, I aim to provide an in-depth analysis of the social stratification of eating and feeding practices in an Italian context, with a special focus on the school canteen as a possible enhancer of children’s dietary compliance. Although the thesis cannot be read as a single monograph, the fil rouge that runs through the chapters presents new insights on the ways eating and feeding are organised, regulated, differentiated, and reproduced in Italy by adults and children. In fact, each chapter reads as an autonomous contribution, accompanied by a specific literature review, that distinctively adds to a branch of the research on food sociology, from health to consumption passing through childhood. Nevertheless, this does not imply that the chapters are disconnected, and the reader will often find cross references throughout the manuscript. The thesis is constructed on two different blocks, divided by methodology, but held together by the first chapter, in which I discuss the socio-philosophical foundation of the research. Here I initially draw from Bourdieu’s practice theory to discuss the theoretical and methodological foundations of the thesis, and I subsequently examine the concepts of eating and feeding practices, eventually outlining the contribution of each empirical chapter. Therefore, the first block seeks to identify theoretically informed empirical regularities using Bourdieu’s (2011) theory of capitals, and its adaptation to health behaviours as proposed by Abel (2007; 2008). This part aims to ‘quantify’ how capital constrictions shape food consumption and beyond. Chapter 2, focusing on gender differences in health behaviours among adults (Courtenay, 2000), analyses the determinants of dietary compliance, drinking behaviour and smoking, and how gender differentials change depending on the respondent’s levels of cultural capital. Chapter 3, however, which paves the way for the subsequent ethnography, focuses on the determinants of dietary compliance among Italian schoolchildren, and specifically on the role of the school canteen as an equaliser that can mitigate health inequalities by improving the diet of most disadvantaged children. In the second block, I focus on eating and feeding practices as social constructions. This part of the work allows me to go behind and beyond the empirical regularities shown in the previous chapters. Behind, because qualitative data provide an opportunity to consider the epistemological foundations and the political implications of the construction of dietary compliance, in school and at home; beyond, because they allow us to excavate in vivo how eating and feeding are part of a contested field of knowledge that depends on family endowments. The three chapters are hence based on the ethnographic fieldwork and the in-depth interviews conducted in four Italian primary schools. Chapter 4, partially rooted in the Foucauldian tradition of governmentality studies, uses the concept of strategy and tactics (de Certeau, 1984) to analyse the construction and implementation of a healthy meal and the resistances that arise around and within the school canteen. On a different note, chapter 5 makes use of the in-depth interviews with parents and the fieldnotes gathered in Poversano and Goldazzo school canteens to study how cultural and economic family resources shape parental feeding practices, their perception of the school meal and children’s knowledge of healthy food and cuisine. Finally, chapter 6 illustrates what happens to food education programs when they are applied in extreme contexts, such as the school of a poverty-stricken neighbourhood of Palermo. In the conclusions, I summarise the most important findings of the manuscript, and I draw attention to the possible implications for school food programs as well as for future directions for research.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Sociology and Social Research (within the School in Social Sciences, till the a.y. 2010-11)
PhD Cycle:29
Subjects:Area 14 - Scienze politiche e sociali > SPS/08 SOCIOLOGIA DEI PROCESSI CULTURALI E COMUNICATIVI
Area 14 - Scienze politiche e sociali > SPS/07 SOCIOLOGIA GENERALE
Area 14 - Scienze politiche e sociali > SPS/10 SOCIOLOGIA DELL'AMBIENTE E DEL TERRITORIO
Repository Staff approval on:20 Feb 2018 09:00

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