An investigation of home cooking practices to deal with food-related anxieties in China: issues of embodiment and intergenerational transmission

  • Meng LI

Student thesis: PhD Thesis


In recent decades, many Chinese have experienced changes in their eating as a result of a shift from food shortages to an expansion of food markets. Many urban Chinese make choices from a variety of food, and food safety incidents frequently reported in the media have raised consumer concerns with food quality and the potential effects of foods on human health. Meanwhile, some urban dwellers worry about overweight, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and other health threats as a result of, for example, diets that are high in fats and sugar. Some studies have examined how consumers respond to food-related anxieties in China. These studies have suggested that they may change their eating or shopping patterns and rely on external indicators such as, brands and vendor types. A number of these studies are based on quantitative calculations of patterns of participants’ behaviours or perceptions. However, they pay little attention to how ordinary people experience and deal with food-related anxieties. Moreover, individuals seem to be passive and dependent on institutional efforts to control food-related anxieties. With the use of interview and participant observation data, this research analyses how participants deal with the food-related anxieties they experience in everyday life through their daily food and eating practices. The research demonstrates participants’ activity to deal with their food safety and health concerns in light of Mauss’s (1973) concept of ‘body techniques’, and de Certeau’s (1984) discussion of ‘strategies’ and ‘tactics’. By drawing on Mauss’s (1973) concept, the study offers an understanding of food-related anxieties and the practice of home cooking to deal with those anxieties through the perspective of embodiment. My research also challenges the existing literature which suggests ordinary people are passive and subject to institutional strategies to deal with food-related anxieties. With reference to Mauss (1973) and de Certeau (1984), participants have agency to respond to food safety and health concerns according to their acquired eating habits and the social circumstances to which they belong. The findings suggest that participants tactically use embodied knowledge and techniques of home cooking transmitted across generations to deal with food safety and health concerns in contemporary China.
Date of Award1 Jul 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Univerisity of Nottingham
SupervisorLili Hernandez (Supervisor)


  • Cultural studies
  • home cooking practices
  • food
  • food anxiety
  • everyday embodied practices
  • ethnography

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