Contested food: a focused ethnography of how food and food practices are made sense of in Swedish home economics

Research output: Contribution to conferenceOral presentation


This presentation reports from a focused ethnographic study on how teachers of Swedish Home Economics and their students in collaboration with each other and objects make sense of food. The study was based on a social constructionist perspective in combination with theories on space and culture. Food in Home Economics offers a challenging complexity. On the one hand Swedish Home Economics is a school subject with a long history, framed by certain conditions such as the syllabus and issues of time. Here, teachers and students meet according to plan with the expressed intention to teach and learn about food. On the other hand we as humans use food to make sense of the world. Home Economics can thus be conceived of as a space where a rich array of interests, beliefs, traditions and norms relating to food coexist and are being transformed. This study was conducted through what can be described as a focused ethnography where attention was directed towards a particular setting and by giving emphasis to particular behaviour in particular settings rather than attempting to portray a whole cultural system. Data gathering was initially broad and explorative with observations to find ways to proceed, which was followed by focus group interviews with students and teachers. Formal data gathering thus began in early 2007 with a short fieldwork and concluded with focus group interviews with teachers in the spring of 2009. This work resulted in three different data sets that was analysed both separately and in conjunction with each other with the help of different analytical theories. The main finding was that food in Swedish Home Economics could be described as contested: teachers and students made sense of food in opposing ways.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes
EventFood2. A making sense of: project -
Duration: 1980-Jan-01 → …


ConferenceFood2. A making sense of: project
Period80-01-01 → …

Swedish Standard Keywords

  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary (50901)


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