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The multi-spatiality of food: A study of the evolution of food labelling in the UK from 1850 to 2012

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy

Attempting to avoid the progressive or declensionist arc of most narratives where either the progress of nutrition science is feted or the decline of food quality is lamented, this dissertation will instead rely on ideas of lateral movement between the outside and inside to explore changes to three spatialisations of food from the mid-nineteenth century until the present that highlight the multi-spatiality of food. Using textual and visual data about food labels from archives and public historical sources as an entry point, the study will argue that one of the ways that food has changed over this period has been through a process of interiorisation. First, traditional concerns characterised as external to food, such as adulteration, have been increasingly overlaid with concerns with the interior of food in the form of nutrition science. Second, this problematisation has been accompanied by new forms of connection to the interior of the person, demonstrated by early concern over the nutritional needs of invalids and infants. Third, the change in shopping space from full-service to self-service formats has reconfigured food shopping to a more internalised experience. Finally, the dissertation explores how this interiorisation of food has been re-exported to wider society as a global assemblage of technology, politics and ethics through the case of coeliac societies and gluten legislation. In order to emphasise the contingency of the current spatialisations, particular attention will be given to the practical work of creating the spatialisations, including disputes over boundaries and questions of expertise. The study aims to contribute to work within geography and science studies that emphasises the co-creation of science and society, questions given socio-material orderings and categories and foregrounds the importance of space and place for understanding food and society.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
    Award date2016


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