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Places around the table : a qualitative enactivist exploration of food practices in a familial context Thom, Patricia Louise


We live in complex times. To some, this statement might be referring to the modern factors that must be controlled so we can live comfortably. To an enactivist, this statement has a different meaning. Living, as viewed through the lens of this deep ecological philosophy, is a constant bringing forth of a world with our knowing, identity, and actions. Human living occurs in the taken for granted context of other living beings and non-living entities. We exist in the present, shaped by a past that simultaneously determines our future. Places, times, and living are continuously participating in an interdependent, co-evolutionary process. This research study sets out to explore, through the lens of enactivism, how relationships among identity, knowing, and action shape one family's food practices during meals at home. I begin with an account of the context from which this study arose. Included is an overview of the field of nutrition education, a review of my personal history and understandings regarding food and nutrition, and a discussion of how an enactivist perspective is related to education. Then the qualitative case study strategy utilizing snowball sampling and a variety of data collection methods (researcher journal entries, video taped household and extended family meals, individual interviews, and stimulated recall (group) interviews) is described. Information was collected from one Caucasion, middle class extended family of British-German heritage, residing in the lower mainland of BC, Canada. There were eight adults and three children representing four generations living in four separate households. The information gathered from this family was used to create a written description of their everyday familial meals at home. The family's food practices were found to be complexly connected to various physical places (geographical locations and interior spaces) as well as metaphorical places (social roles and places in time) within their context. Examination of these interconnected places presented a view of the family's sensing of places around their dinner table which in turn, revealed facets of their knowing, identity, and actions related to food and eating practices. Finally (but not in conclusion), I discuss how contextualized relationships among places and people could be adopted by future nutrition education research and practice. It is my intention that these new understandings now become the grounds for future enactivist endeavors in the field.

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