The Value of Ethnographic Research for Sustainable Diet Interventions: Connecting Old and New Foodways in Trinidad

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Abstract / Description of output

Recent policy and scholarly attention to traditional food and culture has highlighted the importance of this theme for developing culturally-appropriate sustainable diet interventions. Yet, yet most approaches to traditional food maintain an unhelpful dichotomy between traditional and modern foodways. Ethnographic research into the ways people experience and articulate the sub-stitution of previously homegrown foods with modern industrial foods can uncover aspects of local food heritage that have been previously hidden or undermined. The central aim of this paper is to demonstrate the usefulness of ethnographic approaches for recent policy debates around the importance of tradition for sustainable diets. An ethnographic ontology, which takes cultural meanings and values of ultraprocessed foods as well as so-called traditional foods seriously, can provide a more nuanced picture of food system transitions that can inform sustainable dietary interventions. A combination of ethnographic methods were used for this paper, including participant observation, photo elicitation, questionnaires and go-along/shop-along inter-views with N = 200 research participants. Subsequent ‘armchair’ research revealed important in-sights about Afrodescendant and Indigenous food heritage in Trinidad and Tobago, indicating the need for future research in this area. In particular, the findings suggest that cultural values of ‘colour’ and ‘(local) flavour’ connect old and new foodways in Trinidad and Tobago. Values of colour and flavour, along with shared feelings elicited through the ethnographic research such as con-cerns about agrochemical use and nostalgia for household food production, can inform the development of culturally-appropriate sustainable diet interventions.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2023


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