'May contain traces of': An ethnographic study of eating communities and the gluten free diet

Meghan Cridland

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

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Abstract

Changes to the contemporary food system, including meals and eating patterns, have occurred quickly. One such change over the past 30 years has been the increase of commercially produced foods aimed at food allergies and intolerances and ‘free from’ dieting.
The gluten free diet has recently emerged as a popular diet trend in Western countries, outpacing its origins as a treatment for celiac disease. This thesis uses material from the U.S. and Sweden where the prevalence of celiac disease hovers around 1-2% respectively, but where the consumer demand for gluten free products has resulted in a multi-billion dollar boon to the food industry.
But why? How has this restrictive, medicalized diet entered the everyday eating patterns and practices of celiac and non-celiac persons alike? What is the appeal to consumers and to the food industry? And what does the increasing awareness of, and catering to, food intolerances mean for interactions around the dinner table?
This thesis uses ethnographic data collected at a summer camp in the US for children with celiac disease, combined with material collected from an open-ended questionnaire distributed through the Folk Life Archive at Lund.
The aim of this thesis is to study the emergence of an eating community by looking at the social, emotional, material, and practical aspects of the gluten free diet. It explores how the consumption of gluten free foods illustrate the transformation of an eating community—not only the eating community of those following the diet, but that of ‘everyone else’ who increasingly interact with the diet’s materiality and its social consequences.
Due to the gluten free diet, the increasing numbers and awareness of food allergies and intolerances, and people without allergies or intolerances following ‘free-from’ diets, I also discuss the emergence of new practices, strategies, and norms around commensality, produced by the social friction of negotiations taking place around the table. The emergence of a new eating community means the emergence of distinctions that differentiate the gluten free eating community from others. This thesis also aims to explore how these distinctions play out as people and food products cross between eating communities and the subsequent effects on the relationships between eating communities as a result.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor
Awarding Institution
  • Lund University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Hagström, Charlotte, Supervisor
  • Jönsson, Håkan, Supervisor
Award date2017 Oct 27
Place of PublicationLund, Sweden
Publisher
ISBN (Print)978-91-983690-3-8
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Sep

Bibliographical note

Defence details
Date: 2017-10-27
Time: 10:15
Place: C121, LUX, Helgonavägen 3, Lund
External reviewer(s)
Name: Pico Larsen, Hanne
Title: PhD
Affiliation: Copenhagen Business School
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Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Humanities
  • Ethnology

Keywords

  • eating community
  • gluten-free diet
  • Celiac
  • diet trend
  • gluten free
  • food allergy
  • ethnology

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