Situating Hunger and Fullness through the Lived Body - An Anthropological Analysis of Eating – University of Copenhagen

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Situating Hunger and Fullness through the Lived Body - An Anthropological Analysis of Eating

PhD defence

Line Hillersdal

Abstract

Eating is an everyday practice for everyone but why some people stop eating whilst others continue is an unresolved research issue. Exploring phenomena such as hunger and fullness, as this study has done, requires us to look beyond the idea that these are merely natural events.

In Western societies with a social reality characterised by an abundance of food, feelings of hunger or fullness may relate to several social and normative arenas.

This thesis investigates eating by venturing into an ethnographic exploration of the eater, and the range of sense-making practices with which eating connects. It poses the question: how might we understand the multidimensionality of eating when eating is considered to be an inherently embodied and embedded practice situated in various social and normative arenas of everyday life?

Based on an anthropological fieldwork conducted in Denmark over a period of two years, the thesis offers insights into both the obvious differences and the perhaps less-obvious similarities between the norms and values related to eating practices, as observed among three very different groups of Danes: namely, gastric-bypass patients; young military recruits; and the performers and guests at a food performance theatre. Methodological and theoretically the thesis proposes a combination of a phenomenological account of eating, hunger and fullness with basic tenets from Actor-Network Theory to analyse the specific social and material circumstances that construct or enact those experiences. By proposing the concept ‘eater-in-the-world’, the thesis intends to capture the complexity of an eater, thereby contributing to a more nuanced understanding of how eating can be analysed. This comprises the experiencing body of an eater, his/her visceral and sensuous engagement with the world, and the material properties of food that affect all of us humans.

Principal Supervisor

Professor Lotte Holm, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Assessment Committee

Associate professor Karsten Klint Jensen, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen

Dr. Simon Cohn, Department of Public Health & Primary Care, University of Cambridge

Associate professor Susanne Højlund, Department of Culture and Society, Aarhus University