An ethnographic study of lunchtime experiences in primary school dining rooms

Pike, Joanne

September 2010

Thesis or dissertation

© 2010 Joanne Pike. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

The issue of school meals has recently come to the fore of UK government policy with reforms to school food occupying a pivotal position in ameliorating public health and educational concerns, from tackling the "obesity epidemic" to improving children's academic attainment, performance and behaviour. Amidst the media generated obsession and the hype surrounding Jamie Oliver's Feed Me Better campaign, school dining rooms became the forum through which a variety of policy objectives and government targets were directed. School dining rooms became political sites and the practices that occurred within them became subject to unprecedented scrutiny and were rendered accountable for ensuring the nation's future health. This thesis draws on an ethnographic study in four primary school dining rooms in Kingston-upon-Hull to explore the culture of school dining using Foucault's governmentality thesis as an analytical framework. The introduction sets the scene for the study providing a historical account of the emergence of school meals in the UK. A review of the literature pertinent to this study is conducted in two parts in Chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 2 provides a detailed overview of Foucault's writing on power and governmentality while Chapter 3 discusses the literature pertaining to dominant discourses around school meals; the family meal, nutrition and obesity, and lastly celebrity and media. Chapter 4 discusses the methods used in the study. The remainder of the thesis deals with the data generated through the study with Chapter 5 providing an account of the dining spaces involved in the study and exploring this in relation to geographic literature dealing with spatiality and educational spaces. Chapter 6 focuses upon the logistical organisation of lunchtimes with reference to time, space and the queuing system which I suggest can be regarded as a governmental technology. In Chapter 7 I focus upon the acculturation of table manners and etiquette in relation to Foucauldian concepts of technologies of the self. Chapter 8 continues this theme with an examination of practices that support the constitution of the healthy subject and Chapter 9 deals with discipline, punishment and resistance. Chapter 10 attempts to synthesise this material and argues that Foucault's work on governmentality is a useful analytical framework through which to explore the cultures and practices of school dining and the resulting subjective positions which are accepted, modified and resisted by actors within the space.

Institute for Learning, The University of Hull
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