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Unkept : promises, secrets, and perils within dietetic education and practice Gingras, Jacqueline Rochelle

Abstract

This research is concerned with dietitians' experiences of education and practice, which together constitute dietitian identity. The author, herself a dietitian and dietetic educator, recruited twelve female dietitians to participate in individual interviews and collaborative workshops where they shared their ' experiences and reflections on the themes of the research. This dissertation is arranged in three panels to achieve multiple perspectives on the research findings. The first panel explores the potential of using reflexive autoethnography as a research method. The second panel enacts an autoethnographic tale emphasizing the complexities of dietetic education and practice. The third panel is an academic rendering of the research that posits a theory of dietitian performativity. Arranging the findings as a textual triptych protracts the complex interplay of the research themes. In particular, participants enter the profession sustained by promises of being able to make a difference in the lives of others with respect to nutritional health. Dietetic practice comes to be understood as performative through a series of uncontested, repetitive acts. In the mode of dietitian performativity, dietitians' lived realities are sometimes found to be discontinuous from promises of professionalism. Dietetic education, while not considered solely responsible for generating these promises, might operate to sustain or amplify their effects. Dietitians' passion for dietetics is open to question when performativities are found discrepant from promises. Profoundly melancholic expressions are associated with dietitians' inability to engage in liberatory practice, despite believing such practices were achievable. Melancholia instigated dietitians' desire to leave the profession. An imagined, embodied curriculum depicting what might result if dietetic students, educators, and practitioners acknowledge the relationality, emotionality, and promises of their profession is offered in response. The author calls for a renegotiation of what counts as knowledge in dietetic education through the asking of "Who am I?" In posing this question, the dietitian engages in a reflexive turn towards self-recognition such that 'doing' (performativity) emerges from 'being' (identity) and potentially nutrition discourse expands. Dietitian performativity initiated through critical social discourse begs the question of what it means to be human while endeavouring to embrace the joys, complexities, and contradictions that are dietetic education and practice.

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