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Culture, food, memory and health : an intergenerational study in Liverpool

Haeney, J G (2010) Culture, food, memory and health : an intergenerational study in Liverpool. Doctoral thesis, Liverpool John Moores University.

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This intergenerational study within Liverpool communities employed embodied memory as an analytical tool to explore the changing nature of food practices and the consequent implications for diet and health. The methodology had a qualitative focus using a phenomenological approach that employed the ethnographic methods of participant/nonparticipant observation, natural conversations, document analysis and in-depth interviews with eight families that comprised three and four generations of mixed gender and socioeconomic backgrounds spanning almost one hundred years. Memory is a multi-faceted phenomenon through which I have explored a range of concepts in relation to food and familial practices; history, inter-generational transmission, identity, tradition, community and health. The notion of embodied memory involving the senses and emotions, revealed the cultural and social meanings my participants afforded to traditional, ritual and everyday foods and food practices and the extent to which these organised and embodied their relationship with the past bound up in life experiences that included transitions, turning points and significant events and relationships. Within particular temporal, social, economic and historical contexts such memories moulded food and eating practices that in turn, intersected with the major influences on food choice including available resources, corporate marketing, personal attributes and knowledge, family values and health concerns. The study produced evidence that health and illness are not independent variables that can be tested and measured, but rather are subjective experiences embodied in everyday life attention to which can help us develop a better understanding of why the relationship between food and health has become problematic. Food stories across time revealed that people draw on, and respond to, different knowledges that may, or may not, lead them to improvise or make adjustments to their food practices. A common sense stock of knowledge bound up in the notion of tradition once embedded in the community and family has, to a large extent, been superseded by 'expert' knowledge derived from surveys that provide evidence base for government advice on healthy eating from which, despite inconsistencies, the individual is expected to make rational, informed choices. My study challenges this ethos of individualism wrapped up in the aphorism 'you are what you eat', arguing that we need to focus our attention on the social and cultural ways in which food 'gets done', food as it is valued and practiced, that in turn may lead to more effective health promotion strategies.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Divisions: Humanities & Social Science
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2017 12:12
Last Modified: 03 Sep 2021 23:30
DOI or ID number: 10.24377/LJMU.t.00005979
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/5979
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