CfP for 2014 AAAs: Employing Visual and Digital Methods to Produce an Enhanced Anthropology of Child Feeding

CFP for Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association 2014: December 3-7, Washington, D.C. Meeting Theme: Producing Anthropology

Panel Organizers: Chelsea Wentworth (University of Pittsburgh) and Lisa Garibaldi (UC Riverside)

Title: Employing Visual and Digital Methods to Produce an Enhanced Anthropology of Child Feeding

This panel investigates the use of visual methods in researching childhood dietary practices. Drawing on the recent resurgence of interest in the experience of childhood and the expansion of visual methodologies, these papers will contribute to our understanding of the practice of child feeding. The intersect of visual methods as instruments of data collection and the study of child feeding provides greater insight into our understandings of how children access food, children’s food preferences, and the decision-making processes of caregivers as they feed children. We operationalize child feeding as any interaction that a caregiver or the child has in making food choices, and consuming food. Much research on child feeding practice has relied on heavily quantitative measures that examine nutritional value of foods and child growth (see Birch et al. 2003, Pelto et al. 2010). However, we argue that our understandings of the practice of child feeding are greatly advanced through the use of visual methods.

Filmic, photographic, and artistic representations of food production, distribution and consumption enable anthropologists to analyze the role food plays in the enculturation and the nutrition of children, particularly when these materials are gathered in conjunction with other methods such as participant observation, focus groups and interviews that allow for the contextualization of these data. We seek papers that discuss innovative visual methods including, but not limited to photo-elicitation, photovoice, visual voices, ethnomimesis, and drawing exercises, which create an opportunity for anthropologists to see participants’ perspectives of child feeding, leading to more nuanced understandings of human behavior. Visual methods, then, provide a way for researchers to gather data potentially inaccessible via other methods; for example, photographing food can help researchers work with illiterate caregivers who could not keep dietary journals, and illustrations can help young children, who have a hard time verbalizing, communicate.

Visual methods are not new to anthropology, indeed Mead and Bateson’s pioneering research using ethnographic film and photos dates to the 1930s and 40s (Jacknis 1988). With the rapid advancement in digital technologies and increasing affordability of these products, however, ethnographers and research participants have more tools available than ever before through the use of products like camera phones and online media sharing websites. Acknowledging previous research on the use of visual methods in anthropology (for some examples see Hockings 1995[1974], Collier 1986, Wang and Burris 1997, Strong and Wilder 2009, Yonas et al. 2009, Marion and Crowder 2013, Pink 2013), this panel will examine how visual methods are applied in the study of child feeding. These methods help researchers gather data from both the children’s perspectives, as well as their caregivers.

We seek papers from all geographic regions that address methods in which the participants themselves create the images, helping anthropologists achieve a variety of objectives including, but not limited to: engaging in participatory and community-based research; helping participants use their film, photography, and artwork as forms of community activism; viewing activities and behaviors that occur when the anthropologist is not present. Additionally, we seek papers where the ethnographer creates the visual record capturing the process, movement, and fluidity of activities and events, as well as interactions, behaviors and food preferences. Keeping in mind the ways that we produce anthropology today, we argue that this mix of participant-driven and ethnographer-driven data collection using visual methodologies will foster new conversations and collaborations amongst those researchers engaging in food studies and visual methods. We encourage submissions that include innovative presentations of data in an effort to support the AAA’s work to ‘Reimagine the Typical AAA Presentation Format.’

Those interested in presenting a paper for this panel, please submit a 250 word abstract to Chelsea Wentworth cwm23@pitt.edu and Lisa Garibaldi lisagaribaldi@gmail.com on or before Friday, March 28, 2014. We will notify you by April 4th if your abstract has been selected to be a part of the panel.

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