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Type: Theses
Title: The social lives of superfoods
Author: Loyer, Jessica
Issue Date: 2016
School/Discipline: School of Humanities
Abstract: Superfoods have emerged as an increasingly significant category of health food products and related popular discourse about food, health, and values. They are celebrated for their purported extraordinary nutritional and/or medicinal values, ‘natural’ qualities, associations with ‘exotic’ or ‘pristine’ places of origin, and histories of traditional or indigenous use. However, the term ‘superfood’ defies precise definition, and both products and discourse are poorly understood by the public and regulatory bodies. Existing scholarship has examined social, cultural, political, and economic aspects of related concepts and products, such as functional foods and low-carbohydrate diets, demonstrating ways in which new forms and ideas emerge through the convergence of nutritional science discourse, globalised food provisioning, and the commodification of food and health. These studies have largely focused on the nutritional anxieties felt by Western consumers. Other literature has paid greater attention to the impacts of the globalisation and industrialisation of food and agriculture on producers, often located in the developing world. Research bridging worlds of food production and consumption is called for, but only recently beginning to emerge in the scholarly literature. There is currently no existing scholarship examining superfoods in particular. Because superfoods can be understood both as a discourse about food and health and a group of agro-food products, they offer a distinctive lens through which to conceptually bring together geographically (and, often, socioculturally) distant worlds of production and consumption. In drawing together these diverse worlds, I have employed a ‘biography-of-things’ approach inspired by the work of Appadurai and Kopytoff. Drawing upon assemblage theory, actor network theory, and circuits of culture theory, and employing a case study design encompassing diverse social science methodologies, this study examines the emergence of superfoods as a sociocultural form. The research demonstrates how a range of seemingly disparate existing elements, including developments in nutritional science, neoliberal trade agendas, traditional indigenous knowledge, food processing and transportation technologies, changing ideas about food, health, and ethics, and the proliferation of digital media, are drawn together in the creation of a new form with broad social and environmental impacts. It has implications for future research into the cultural power of in-between (food) objects and the ways in which they enable us to examine the tensions that pull at contemporary food culture.
Advisor: Ankeny, Rachel Allyson
Gray, John
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Humanities, 2016.
Keywords: food studies
critical nutrition studies
health foods
nutritional primitivism
Provenance: This electronic version is made publicly available by the University of Adelaide in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. This thesis may incorporate third party material which has been used by the author pursuant to Fair Dealing exceptions. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material you wish to be removed from this electronic version, please complete the take down form located at:
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