Note: This is a student project from a course affiliated with the Ethnography of the University Initiative. EUI supports faculty development of courses in which students conduct original research on their university, and encourages students to think about colleges and universities in relation to their communities and within larger national and global contexts.

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Title:What's for Breakfast?: The Tensions Between Students' Conceptualizations of Sustainability and Daily Food Choices
Author(s):Whitley, Anona
sustainable agriculture
Abstract:My research intends to look at how undergraduate students who are involved with a university sustainable agriculture program conceptualize sustainability, and how this conceptualization is lived out in their daily food consumption choices. Sustainability works to secure a viable food production system for the future using methods that are safe and healthy for the environment and for humans. Sustainability is shaped by other discourses, such as environmentalism, anti-capitalism, eat local, organic foods, labor justice, vegetarianism, safe food supply, Slow Food, etc. Students who incorporate sustainable agriculture into their academic study are assumed to have strong opinions about sustainability, and these opinions are shaped by the students' past experiences, family history, former education/knowledge, and social and physical positionality. I hypothesize that students will conceptualize sustainability in similar ways because it will be in strong articulation with the sustainable agriculture program. However, each student will also draw from other discourses that may have affected her or him more personally. Sustainability will be lived out in students' daily food choices, but this will vary slightly among students according to their "personal semantic networks", the other discourses they draw upon, and depending on how accessible sustainable food choices are to them as undergraduates living on the university campus (Strauss, 2005: 209).
Issue Date:2008-02-15
Course / Semester:ANTH 411: Methods for Sociocultural Anthropology, Prof. Nancy Abelmann. This course introduced students to a variety of ethnographic methods. Students tried their hand at some of these methods through a focused project. I had students think about their semester-long work as "pilot research"; although they did write up a short paper on their findings (their "discuss" section of the database), the culminating assignment was a research proposal in which they envision building on their preliminary findings in a longer/larger project. In the beginning of the semester, students did some warm-up exercises not directly related to their projects (an observation, an analysis of a university document, and an interview) -- some students elected to remove these from their databases while others left them in because of their connection to the final project. Students' "question" and "plan" sections of the database include multiple entries as I encouraged them to continue to refine these over the course of the semester in dialogue with their own emerging findings. I also asked students to search both the U of I Student Life and Cultures Archives and well as this EUI IDEALS collection to find archives relevant to their pilot/proposed research. All students were asked to "reflect" on the research experience and to make "recommendations" to the University on the basis of their research findings. The course syllabus is available at:
Publication Status:unpublished
Date Available in IDEALS:2008-02-15

This item appears in the following Collection(s)

  • Student Learning
    This collection examines student learning both in and beyond the classroom.
  • Student Communities and Culture
    The university offers an extraordinary opportunity to study and document student communities, life, and culture. This collection includes research on the activities, clubs, and durable social networks that comprise sometimes the greater portion of the university experience for students.

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