Re-imagining eating spaces of an inner-urban university as pathways to sustainable outcomes

Middha, B 2019, Re-imagining eating spaces of an inner-urban university as pathways to sustainable outcomes, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Re-imagining eating spaces of an inner-urban university as pathways to sustainable outcomes
Author(s) Middha, B
Year 2019
Abstract Current understandings and imaginations of eating spaces and related practices limit sustainability outcomes in food provisioning and consumption at urban universities. This is because most understandings and strategies are singular and/or siloed in their approaches and do not address the complex spatial and temporal aspects of eating practices. In addition, most strategies for change are confined to changing individual behaviours and attitudes. This thesis addresses these issues through the research question, how can eating spaces be (re)imagined at urban universities as pathways for sustainable outcomes?

Social Practice Theories (SPT) and in particular Schatzki’s (2002)site ontology provide a conceptual framework in this thesis to examine and re-imagine eating spaces and students’ practices as relational. Further, that space is a production of these relations encompassing objective and existential timespaces. Drawing on these concepts, I reimagine university eating spaces as a variety of lived spaces where eating occurs. This approach broadens the notion of sustainability outcomes to explore these spaces and practices as sites for intervention. Moreover, the approach taken also reveals different modes of knowledge production for and at universities, positioning them as pathways for sustainable outcomes.

I employed interpretive ethnography as a methodology to identify practices and material arrangements, with RMIT University’s city campus in Melbourne, Australia, as its case study. Using multiple spatially and temporally dispersed methods, I conducted: observations and attended events on campus over a period of two years; semi-structured interviews with a wide range of University and student representatives; focus groups with eighteen students in which students created food maps. I also established a private Facebook page for students to post ‘food selfies’ that captured their food practices on- and off-campus.

I studied the eating spaces on campus by focusing on four types of ‘lived spaces’, each providing a distinctive account of and perspective on a lived space that may facilitate different food provisioning and sustainable outcomes. These were: 1) ethnographic spaces that enabled knowledge production that can themselves be sites for intervention 2 in patterns of eating associated with the campus; 2) third spaces of mobile fooddistribution that re-imagined eating spaces as hybrid, convivial and spatio-temporally flexible; 3) spaces of capability that enabled practices with sustainable outcomes on campus by connecting on-campus practices and material arrangements to students’ domestic practices; and 4) convenient eating-timespaces that added to conviviality, commensality and sociality in eating, which have been shown to have sustainable outcomes.

In conclusion, I argue that eating spaces are best understood through the study of the multi-relationality of practices, material arrangements and their dynamics that produce lived spaces. This research approach provides insight into the kind of spaces produced and what kinds of sustainability outcomes are achieved or possible. It further establishes that lived spaces are important and innovative pathways toward sustainable outcomes. In this way, this study is a sociological inquiry into the geographies of practice that provides insights into inquiries of consumption and contributes to the inclusion of the spatial within sociological studies.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global, Urban and Social Studies
Subjects Social and Cultural Geography
Environmental Sociology
Keyword(s) Social practice theories
Site ontology
Lived space
Sustainable consumption
Urban spaces
Food provisioning
Environmental sustainability
Digital ethnography
Food selfies
Food trucks
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Created: Fri, 31 May 2019, 09:34:20 EST by Keely Chapman
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