Culinary Practices in Shared Kitchens
a Collaborative Ethnobotanical Film Project

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This project engages with a number of theoretical perspectives. Some of the issues which inform this approach are:

Orientation to discourse: This project takes a qualitative approach to analyzing how people perform culinary practices and make these meaningful to themselves and others, by looking at the resources they draw on in particular situations. Through the documentation of these practices, and accompanying talk, we will try to understand some of the cultural models which support traditional practices and which are creatively employed in new contexts. This perspective breaks down the opposition between descriptive and explanatory approaches, by building ethnological explanation through ethnographic description. Assembling a body of material becomes important both as a resource for ongoing work and as a process which can be integrated as part of the research focus.

While discourse approaches often center on the analysis of talk, discourses can be understood to include a range of other practices as well1. I plan to analyze food plants as discursive elements of culinary practice. These plants are resources which may be selected, treated, and combined in different ways. Attention will be given to these particular usages, and how they fit into the culinary systems in which they are employed, looking at how plants may be substituted (paradigmatically) or used in different parts of the culinary process (syntagmatically). I am interested in looking at how this ethnobotanical grammar intersects with talk about food and fits into the discourse as a whole.

Reflexive ethnography: In describing traditional ethnography, George Marcus2 has noted that its practice is divided between the subject's location on the one hand, and the scholar's place of work and writing on the other. In a sense this project deconstructs this characterization by taking as its research location the domestic sphere of its researchers. A particularly interesting aspect of this may come from looking at the ethnobotanical culinary practices of a number of people who have a professional relationship to plants, as botanists, horticulturalists or agricultural geographers.

Supporting language diversity: One of the advantages of digital technologies is the ability to produce multiple versions of the analytic work. This means that work can be produced in the language(s) of the research subjects, and made accessible to them and their communities with greater facility than when work was primarily produced in one of only a few academic languages. In order to do this, material must be collected in diverse languages, and this material needs to be conserved throughout the research process.

  1. Paul Gee, An Introduction to Discourse Analysis.
  2. George Marcus, 1998, Ethnography Through Thick and Thin. p. 79.

David Strauch | P.O. Box 62223 | Honolulu, HI 96839
Revised 20 Nov 2006

Overview | Questions | Methods | Participation | Plan | Perspectives | Site