Fat Chance? Eating well with margarine
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
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Reason for embargo
Chapter five of this thesis has been embargoed for a period of two years due to potential corporate sensitivity.
Since its invention nearly 150 years ago, margarine has proven itself adaptable to multiple ingredients and techniques whilst continuing to mimic the fatty tastes familiar to eaters in Northern Europe. In this thesis I argue that it this malleability that makes margarine a useful subject with which to explore constructions of eating-well. This thesis examines the ways in which margarine is done, why it is done in the ways that it is, and explores how such doings frame possibilities for eating-together-well. Eating-well has become something of a social obsession in the UK in recent years. Individual eating practices have become framed as a responsibility of care for personal and societal health, for agricultural workers, animal welfare and for the future of the planet. Nonetheless, it is commonly believed that although deeply personal, food habits are culturally and socially engrained, and as such are hard to change. This empirically led thesis, examines the knowledges and practices of producers and consumers, and establishes habit formation as a typical response by both producers and consumers to becoming overwhelmed with incompatible knowledges and information, compelling them to choose, prioritise and juggle ‘moral’ values. Yet, I demonstrate that such habits only remain stable until disrupted by an event which overflows and troubles this settlement. Building on this, this thesis then examines the possibilities offered by the creation of micro-events for encountering, knowing, and relating with, margarine matters anew. In this way, this thesis investigates the values, norms and power relations entangled with the presentation and enactment of margarine and its constituent parts as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, examining both what these framings do, and how they are maintained. In approaching margarine matters in this way, this thesis offers three key contributions to the area of food geographies. Firstly, I demonstrate how commodity frameworks shift political problems in to a technical and administrative realm and close down spaces of critical thought and political intervention. Secondly, I establish that ‘strange encounters’ are events which can add to understandings of the more-than human world-making of food knowledges, practices, and habits. Thirdly, I determine that the novel methodological approach of ‘playing with our food’ is a productive technique with which to prefigure and rehearse more nuanced ethical understandings of eating-well as a relational doing that is excessive to consuming-well.
Hocknell, S., 2016. Chewing the Fat:“Unpacking” Distasteful Encounters. Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, 16(3), pp.13-18.
PhD in Geography