Congratulations to recent PhD Alexandra Rodney, recipient of a SSHRC postdoctoral award

Alexandra Rodney, who completed her PhD in the Department of Sociology in 2017, has been awarded a Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Postdoctoral Fellowship to pursue research in the Department of Sociology at Ryerson University for the 2019-2010 academic year. The SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship program is funded by the Canadian government and seeks to “support the most promising Canadian new scholars in the social sciences and humanities, and assist them in establishing a research base at an important time in their research careers.”

Alexandra’s postdoctoral program is the next step after holding a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Guelph for the last two years where she conducted research on gender representation and leadership at the institution. Prior to that her dissertation work in the Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, resulted in a dissertation titled Healthy is the New Thin: The Discursive Production of Women’s Healthy Living Media. The dissertation was based on an analysis of women’s healthy living media, which is produced within a Western political context of neoliberalism, healthism, and obesophobia. This work endeavoured to understand how health, gender and culture intersect within the contemporary healthy-living mediascape. Among other findings, the dissertation shows how social media food discourses differ from those in traditional print media and how everyday women are able to position themselves as health experts that readers turn to for health guidance. This dissertation work was supervised by Josee Johnston, Shyon Baumann and Elaine Power.

For her postdoctoral program, Alexandra will extend her previous food studies research on community food cultures. The title of her postdoctoral project is School Food Program Mobilization: Sowing the Seeds of Food Justice Leadership. This project is shaped by a social movements theoretical framework and has two key objectives: 1) understanding the conditions that lead to school food program mobilization; and 2) understanding how school food programs build community capacity for social justice leadership. The research site for this project is the city of Toronto where food insecurity rates can be as high as 50% in some neighbourhoods. This project will be supervised by Dr. Mustafa Koc in Ryerson University’s Sociology department.

 

PhD Graduate Alexandra Rodney and Professor Josée Johnston on Ethical Eating and Neighbourhoods

PhD Graduate Alexandra Rodney and Professor Josée Johnston, in collaboration with Professor Michelle Szabo (Sheridan), published an article in Sociology. The article examines how ethical consumption choices regarding food vary across neighbourhoods. The authors argue that ‘ethical eating’ practices vary greatly with both neighbourhood and social class.

Alexandra Rodney obtained her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 2017 and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Guelph. She researches the intersections of health, gender and culture. Josée Johnston is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and her general research goal is to advance knowledge in the sociological study of food and consumer culture.

We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available through the University of Toronto Library Portal here.

Johnston, Josée, Michelle Szabo, and Alexandra Rodney. 2012. “Place, Ethics, and Everyday Eating: A Tale of Two Neighbourhoods.” Sociology, 46(6):1091-1108.

In this article we investigate how ‘ethical eating’ varies across neighbourhoods and explore the classed nature of these patterns. While our focus is on ‘ethical eating’ (e.g. eating organics, local), we also discuss its relation to healthy eating. The analysis draws from interviews with families in two Toronto neighbourhoods – one upper and the other lower income. We argue that understandings and practices of ‘ethical eating’ are significantly shaped by social class as well as place-specific neighbourhood cultures which we conceptualize as part of a ‘prototypical’ neighbourhood eating style. People compare themselves to a neighbourhood prototype (positively and negatively), and this sets a standard for acceptable eating practices. This analysis helps shed light on how place is implicated in the maintenance and reproduction of class-stratified food practices.

Read the full article here.

PhD Graduate Alexandra Rodney and Professor Josée Johnston on Celebrity Chefs and Inequality

PhD Graduate Alexandra Rodney and Professor Josée Johnston, in collaboration with Professor Phillipa Chong (McMaster), published an article in Poetics. The article explores how celebrity chefs reproduce social norms regarding race, class, and gender. The authors argue that the personas created by these individuals are usually gendered, racialized, and classed in a way that contributes further to existing inequalities.

Alexandra Rodney obtained her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 2017 and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Guelph. She researches the intersections of health, gender and culture. Josée Johnston is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and her general research goal is to advance knowledge in the sociological study of food and consumer culture.

We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available through the University of Toronto Library Portal here.

Johnston, Josée, Alexandra Rodney, and Phillipa Chong. 2014. “Making Change in the Kitchen? A Study of Celebrity Cookbooks, Culinary Personas, and Inequality.” Poetics, 47:1-22.

In this paper, we investigate how cultural ideals of race, class and gender are revealed and reproduced through celebrity chefs’ public identities. Celebrity-chef status appears attainable by diverse voices including self-trained cooks like Rachael Ray, prisoner turned high-end-chef Jeff Henderson, and Nascar-fan Guy Fieri. This paper investigates how food celebrities’ self-presentations – their culinary personas – relate to social hierarchies. Drawing from literature on the sociology of culture, personas, food, and gender, we carry out an inductive qualitative analysis of celebrity chef cookbooks written by stars with a significant multi-media presence. We identify seven distinct culinary personas: homebody, home stylist, pin-up, chef-artisan, maverick, gastrosexual, and self-made man. We find that culinary personas are highly gendered, but also classed and racialized. Relating these findings to the broader culinary field, we suggest that celebrity chef personas may serve to naturalize status inequities, and our findings contribute to theories of cultural, culinary and gender stratification. This paper supports the use of “persona” as an analytical tool that can aid understanding of cultural inequalities, as well as the limited opportunities for new entrants to gain authority in their respective fields.

Read the full article here.

PhD Graduate Alexandra Rodney and Professor Josée Johnston on Ethical Eating and Class

PhD Graduate Alexandra Rodney and Professor Josée Johnston, in collaboration with Professor Michelle Szabo (Sheridan), published an article in the Journal of Consumer Culture. Their article analyzes how class background affects ethical consumption choices regarding food. They find that those with greater privilege are often more active in ‘ethical eating’, but that low income communities find ways to adapt ethical consumption to their circumstances as well.

Alexandra Rodney obtained her PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto in 2017 and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Guelph. She researches the intersections of health, gender and culture. Josée Johnston is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto and her general research goal is to advance knowledge in the sociological study of food and consumer culture.

We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available through the University of Toronto Library Portal here.

Johnston, Josee, Michelle Szabo, and Alexandra Rodney. 2011. “Good Food, Good People: Understanding the Cultural Repertoire of Ethical Eating.” Journal of Consumer Culture, 11(3):293-318.

Ethical consumption is understood by scholars as a key way that individuals can address social and ecological problems. While a hopeful trend, it raises the question of whether ethical consumption is primarily an elite social practice, especially since niche markets for ethical food products (for example, organics, fair trade) are thought to attract wealthy, educated consumers. Scholars do not fully understand the extent to which privileged populations think about food ethics in everyday shopping, or how groups with limited resources conceptualize ethical consumption. To address these knowledge gaps, the first goal of this paper is to better understand how consumers from different class backgrounds understand ethical eating and work these ideas into everyday food practices. We draw from 40 in-depth interviews with 20 families in two Toronto neighborhoods. Our second goal is to investigate which participants have privileged access to ethical eating, and which participants appear relatively marginalized. Drawing conceptually from cultural sociology, we explore how ethical eating constitutes a cultural repertoire shaped by factors such as class and ethno-cultural background, and how symbolic boundaries are drawn through eating practices. We find that privilege does appear to facilitate access to dominant ethical eating repertoires, and that environmental considerations figure strongly in these repertoires. While low income and racialized communities draw less on dominant ethical eating repertoires, their eating practices are by no means amoral; we document creative adaptations of dominant ethical eating repertoires to fit low income circumstances, as well as the use of different cultural frameworks to address moral issues around eating.

Read the full article here.

Congratulations to recent PhD Alexandra Rodney on her postdoctoral position at the University of Guelph

Congratulations to Alexandra Rodney, who has started a postdoctoral position on the Gender Equity and Excellence through Leadership initiative at the University of Guelph. Alexandra recently received her PhD after completing her dissertation, Healthy is the New Thin: The Discursive Production of Women’s Healthy Living Media, under the supervision of Josée Johnston (chair), Shyon Baumann, and Elaine Power. Her dissertation abstract is as follows:

Dissertation Abstract

This dissertation explores how food and fitness discourses are produced in the contemporary healthy-living mediascape for women. This is done through a content and discourse analysis of 640 blog posts from six foundational healthy living blogs and 230 articles from two high-circulation health and fitness magazines. In the first of three papers, I compare how food is framed in the magazines and blogs. I find that healthy-living magazines frame food as pathogenic, disease-promoting and dangerous in relation to body composition. In contrast, healthy living blog posts present food as a relatively “salutogenic” (Antonovsky 1996) force that promotes health and wellness. I argue that healthy living blog prosumers (who both produce and consume social media) are able to broaden the range of public health discourses, albeit without critiquing the moralization of health or thinness as an overarching goal. In the second paper, I use the analytical tool of biopedagogy to understand what bloggers are teaching readers about how to manage their bodies. I argue that, in order to generate the authority to disseminate health information bloggers, laypeople who are not health professionals must produce health media that includes a distinct knowledge base and evidence to support their recommendations. I offer the concept “blogspert” to describe the way in which bloggers’ authority to disseminate biopedagogy is produced through anecdotal evidence of successfully and intentionally cultivating bodily knowledge towards losing or managing weight. In the third paper, I study the construction of authenticity, a highly-valued trait in contemporary culture. I find that an authentic healthy persona is produced on healthy living blogs through “calibration” (Cairns and Johnston 2015) — a gendered self-presentation process whereby women continually work to position themselves away from pathologized extremes of feminine excess (e.g., obsessiveness perfectionism) and apathy (e.g., laziness, insufficient self-monitoring). Overall, in this dissertation I make the following conclusion: while healthy living bloggers remain compelled to navigate a broader context in which they are required to demonstrate self-regulation, they steer clear of restrictive and punitive discourses through presenting alternative logics of healthy living that reflect and reproduce the neoliberal fetishization of the individual and individual experience.

In her postdoctoral position at the University of Guelph, Alexandra will be working on the Gender Equity and Excellence through Leadership initiative under the direction of the Provost, Charlotte Yates. The initiative will involve studying the status of women and gender minorities at the University of Guelph, including staff, faculty, and students. Their research will examine the barriers that underrepresented groups face in moving into positions of authority, and propose solutions for creating a more inclusive and equitable campus.

PhD students Alexandra Rodney, Sarah Cappeliez, Merin Oleschuk & Professor Josée Johnston examine ideals of feminine domesticity in food blogs

Sarah CappeliezMerin Oleschuk

 

Sociology PhD students, Alexandra Rodney, Sarah Cappeliez, Merin Oleschuk, with Associate Professor Josée Johnston have recently published an article in the international multidisciplinary academic journal, Food, Culture & Society. The paper titled “The Online Domestic Goddess: An Analysis of Food Blog Femininities“, analyzes how idealized notions of femininity are demonstrated in blog posts written by female food bloggers.

We have posted the citation and abstract below. The full article is available on the Taylor & Francis Online Database.

Rodney, A., Cappeliez, S., Oleschuk, M., & Johnston, J. (2017). The online domestic goddess: An analysis of food blog femininities. Food, Culture & Society, 20(4), 685-707. doi:10.1080/15528014.2017.1357954

Scholars have explored how female food celebrities represent a realm of fantasy and desire, embodying attractive “domestic goddesses” who showcase the wonder and seduction of home-cooked meals. These studies have largely focused on television personalities and have overlooked the food blogosophere, a highly popular, digital realm of food media dominated by women. The blogosphere has its own prominent food personalities and occupies a central role as a source of information and inspiration for home cooks. This paper investigates how idealized food femininities manifest on popular food blogs by examining 426 blog posts written by twenty-two award-winning, female food bloggers. These bloggers forward a vision of idealized feminine domesticity that is glamorously seductive and rooted in the “real” life of everyday home cooks. This article illuminates food blogs’ paradoxical combination of idealization and mundanity. It argues that the online domestic goddess exemplifies women’s need to balance multiple, seemingly contradictory ideals: she must embody domestic success, while avoiding associations of perfectionism, excessive control, or laziness. This study of female bloggers nuances scholarly understanding of the domestic goddess fantasy by revealing the deep tensions in women’s food blogs, particularly the challenge of crafting a credible and appealing feminine voice in a postfeminist context.

Read the full article here.

 

Doctoral Candidate Alexandra Rodney receives SAGE Teaching Innovations Award

Congratulations to PhD candidate Alexandra Rodney who  will be attending the ASA Section on Teaching and Learning’s preconference workshop as a recipient of the 2017 SAGE Teaching Innovations and Professional Development Award. The award is funded by SAGE publications and approximately twenty SAGE authors who donate their royalties to provide a fund to offset the costs incurred by graduate students and pretenure faculty of attending the preconference. The award seeks to “prepare a new generation of leaders in the sociology ‘teaching moment'” and is awarded based on 5 criteria:

  1. demonstrated commitment to teaching
  2. potential contribution to the workshop and benefit of attending
  3. depth of reflection on the dynamics of the classroom
  4. financial need
  5. proximity to first full-time college teaching position (recently entered or about to enter)

Alexandra will attend this year’s session which is called “Thinking Matters: Critical Thinking, Active Listening, and Evidence-Based Writing.”  Alexandra is passionate about teaching sociology. She has already participated in 35 teaching-related workshops and earned a Teaching Fundamentals Certificate from the University of Toronto.  She hopes that attending the preconference session at the ASA will help her develop community-engaged and experiential learning activities for students, especially those that are applicable for use in a variety of class sizes and heterogeneous groups.

Alexandra is one of 26 recipients of the SAGE Teaching Innovations Award and the only one from Canada. The full list and the list of sponsoring authors is available here.

Alexandra Rodney on Totem Vodka

University of Toronto PhD Candidate Alexandra Rodney recently published a blog post on the site Sociological Images. The blog, created and edited by Professor Lisa Wade of Occidental College in Los Angeles, provides short sociological discussions of “compelling and timely imagery that spans the breadth of sociological inquiry.” It is widely used by instructors of sociology and by people just interested in exploring contemporary issues through a sociological lens.

Alexandra published a discussion about Totem Vodka, a vodka that was produced for a short time in the Vancouver area in June and July, 2016 before being pulled from the market in response to objections. The piece introduces the concept of Cultural Appropriation and then uses Totem Vodka to illustrate the concept.

The post begins:

Totem Vodka and Indigenous Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation generally refers to the adoption of traditional practices, objects, or images by a person or group that is not part of the originating culture. Cultural appropriation can become problematic when it is done without permission, serves to benefit the dominant group, and erases or further marginalizes the oppressed group. In this way, cultural appropriation can recreate larger structures of inequality.

On a recent stroll through a duty-free shop, I was introduced to one of these problematic examples in the form of a new Canadian product named “Totem Vodka,” packaged in a bottle resembling a totem pole. Totem Vodka is not a product of Indigenous entrepreneurship.

Read the full Sociological Images post here

 

Alexandra Rodney is a PhD Candidate in Sociology with research interests focusing on the Sociology of Culture, and Gender. Her dissertation work probes into the world of food and healthy living blogs to bring understanding to the production and reception of food and fitness discourses in Canada and the United States.