Feeding children: Critical perspectives

Feeding Children Inside and Outside the Home: Critical Perspectives

One day symposium: 18th March 2016 (10am-5pm)

Venue: 11 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3RA

Keynote speaker: Professor Anne Murcott (SOAS)

Organisers: Dr Benedetta Cappellini (Royal Holloway), Dr Vicki Harman (Royal Holloway), and Dr Charlotte Faircloth (University of Roehampton)

Feeding children is now well-established as an everyday activity suffused with moral discourses of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ parenting. Expert guidance, mechanisms of surveillance and self-surveillance have been reported as common aspects of parenting. We see the growing extension of this surveillance and self-surveillance as a new form of intensive parenting (expanded in both time and space) whose consequences for family life, gendered identities and childhood have not been fully investigated.

This symposium brought together researchers who provide a more nuanced and in-depth account of parents’ discourses on feeding their children in different contexts. Crucially, this was very much an inter-disciplinary conversation. The papers presented provided a timely reflection on government and marketplace discourses of feeding children, as well as their relations to the micro and macro politics of family life. They also looked at how parents interpret (and sometimes challenge) messages from health campaigns, the government, peers and others, as well as demonstrating change and continuity over time within individual experiences.

In looking beyond the nutritionist-driven approach which largely sees feeding children as simply a matter of providing “healthy” food, this event sought to provide new critical approaches to analysing feeding as a social practice with wider implications that go beyond the health of the child. In order to unpack this area of social practice participants were invited to address the following questions:

 How, when and why did childhood feeding become such a moralised affair?

 What kinds of authority are employed in the claims making and risk-mongering around feeding children inside and outside of the home?

 How does this relate to broader parenting culture and the ‘intensive’ (or, ‘total’) mothering as proposed by numerous academics?

 What pressures are experienced when feeding children inside and outside the home? To what are they similar or different from each other?

 What are the implications for parental subjectivity when childhood eating has become so moralised? What does this mean for social solidarity more widely?

 How do patterns of parental employment mesh with these debates, and how might this be interpreted as a feminist issue?

 How best can academics research these issues, both theoretically and methodologically?

 How might we take the research agenda forward, and is this compatible with an attempt to influence policy making in this area?

Provisional Programme now online here

Attendance is free but places are limited. To register, please e-mail: feedingchildrensymposium@gmail.com