Justine Brian, Rob Lyons and Angelica Michelis will look at some key contemporary debates about food and health and begin to challenge these ideas.
The availability, range, cost and quality of food in Western societies have never been more favourable, yet food is also the focus of a great deal of anxiety. There are concerns that our current diets will mean we will get steadily fatter and more unhealthy while consuming ‘junk food', with consequences for our quality of life, our children's behaviour and even the environment.
Justine will look at how the political imagination, and the scope of social policy has narrowed, a gap filled by an emphasis on the personal and corporeal, creating an inward, individualised perspective that breeds a personal sense of vulnerability and distracts from issues of broader social importance. She will look at the use of ‘food as metaphor’ – the way that ‘bad food’ and obesity, for example, have become code words for an elite disdain for the masses, and that a solution to the problems of social inequality lies in the consumption of five fruit and veg a day.
Rob will focus more specifically on the health fears around food which are used as a lever for greater official control of our everyday lives, from lunchbox inspections and school food crusades, to endless media health advice and scientifically-dubious ‘healthy labelling’ initiatives. Is there really such a thing as junk food?
Together, they will argue that the upshot of these connected trends is misplaced anxiety and wasted effort fixing what, for the most part, does not need to be fixed. Our modern food system allows us to be healthier than ever before, while transforming food from fuel into a source of entertainment, pleasure and choice.
Angelica will be arguing that our relationship with food has never and can never be one that is free of anxiety and/or emotional attachments. Eating and the production, ingestion and digestion of food, rather than being something we just need to keep doing in order to stay alive, are connected in powerful and often unexpected ways to who we are or, to be more precise, who and what we think we could be. Eating, she will argue, is constructive of the way we experience our bodies as defined by the complex relationship between interior and exterior. This gives rise to the question of whether it is possible at all to be ‘in control’ of food and our relationship to eating. ‘We are what we eat’ is a much more complicated statement than we think it is, particularly when giving it a slightly different spin: we eat therefore we are… what?
Mums-to-be fail to heed eating advice, Manchester Metropolitan University Science & Engineering News website.
Parents feed pupils through gates, BBC News 15 Sept 2006.
Jamie blamed as 20pc fewer children eat school dinners by Simon Walters, Mailonline 8 July 2007.
Diet and lifestyle critical to recovery, says study, Aeron Haworth, Manchester University News, 17 January 2008.
Manchester junk food capital by Yakub Quershi in Manchester Evening News, 28 March 2008.
Go veggie to 'save the planet'? Burger off! by Rob Lyons, spiked online Thurs 29 October 2009. The Stern-endorsed campaign to stop people eating meat shows that greens have no solutions for society beyond launching wars on enjoyment.
Top surgeon calls for butter to be banned published in the Metro 18 January 2010.
Ridiculing the obese is the new gay bashing - Society has become far more enlightened over sexuality and race. Now we reserve our contempt for the underclass by Janice Turner published in Times Online 30 January 2010.