We Are All Foodies: Using Cultural Logics to Construct a Self-Reflexive Eating Identity in the 21st Century

Darling, Michele, Sociology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Corse, Sarah, Department of Sociology, University of Virginia

This dissertation explores how dynamic structural and cultural changes in the modern American foodscape have created a situation of ambiguous rules and unlimited options whereby all consumers are forced to create an eating identity rooted in both (1) what one actually eats, and (2) ideas about what one should eat. Using 77 in-depth qualitative interviews with adult consumers, I identify three main eating identities by analyzing impressions, beliefs, stories, and behaviors around food, eating, and food-related diseases, as well as potential policies to influence junk food consumption. The ways in which consumers define foods, frame issues about food and food-related diseases, as well as make sense of eating behaviors differ depending on their eating identity. I find that people draw upon different cultural logics to make sense of food, eating, and their food choices, as well as to explain any discrepancies that may arise between what they think they should eat and what they do eat. I argue that maintaining and re-creating an eating identity is an agentic, yet required, form of identity work that provides a way to make food choices and to make sense of food and eating, of one's self, and of others. Under conditions of dynamic modernity, all people, even those without a self-proclaimed interest in food, must use food to construct a self-reflexive eating identity, a sometimes challenging process.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
food, eating, foodies, cultural logics, identity
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