Foodways In Relation to Health Among Nepalis Living In Norway

Project’s working title is: ‘Consuming Expectations: An Exploration Of Foodways In Relation to Health Among Nepalis Living In Norway, With Particular Attention to Pregnancy And The Negotiation Of State-Endorsed Dietary Recommendations’

About the project

My research interest centres around the foodways of Nepalis living in Oslo, including how they express their own dietary beliefs and use them to negotiate biomedical nutritional guidance. In seeking to understand the foodways of those I am working with, I aim to take into account their personal experiences, family background, and/or influences from the places they (or, if second generation, their parents) have emigrated from, including theories and practices derived from medical systems and cultural practices there. One focus within this will be to learn how state-endorsed recommendations on diet during pregnancy are engaged with (or not) by Nepali women living there.

Examining the encounters between the Norwegian state’s (biomedically-predicated) antenatal dietary information and women with lived experience of considerably different ethnic, cultural and social backgrounds, speaks to various fields of enquiry within medical anthropology. Firstly, the role(s) of food in health and well-being. For example, the extent to which diverse understandings of food’s inter-relationship with health, notably during pregnancy, co-exist, as well as the space given by women and their families to different ways of using food to achieve wellbeing. Secondly, how food can be used to maintain and also create identity, looking in this case at both immigrants to Norway but also the Norwegian state. And thirdly, power relations inherent in an immigrant-dominant culture relationship as they ‘play out’ through diet. For instance, how those coming to live there meet with the highly individualised perception of health present in Norway, evident in the emphasis on personal responsibility for making ‘healthy’ food choices generally, and in pregnancy for following certain foodways.

Objectives

My aim is for the findings from this research to speak to three domains:

  1. Medical anthropology, by generating further insights into the place of a biomedical nutrition discourse within maternal health
  2. The anthropology of food and eating, by asking how migration and pregnancy make apparent the role of foodways in creating and maintaining identities
  3. Anthropology of public health, by considering eating habits and practices as potential instruments in relations between citizens and the Norwegian state, not least the potential role of nutrition discourse as a Foucauldian ‘technology of power’.

Supervisors

  • First supervisor: Dr Melissa Parker, Brunel University
  • Second supervisor: Dr James Staples, Brunel University
  • Co-supervisor: Dr Benedikte Lindskog, Section for Medical Anthropology & Medical History, University of Oslo

Financing

School of Social Sciences PhD scholarship, Brunel University

Start-Finish

2012-2015

Published July 3, 2014 12:53 PM