Control of the Bodies and Self Expression during Mealtimes in the French Nursing Homes. a Ethnographic Study

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 9:15 AM
Room: Booth 66
Oral Presentation
Laura GUÉRIN , Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Lyon, France
This presentation falls within the framework of my PhD research, which aim to get to a sociological understanding of mealtimes uses in the French nursing homes. I’m studying the social conditions of the daily lunch – when the residents have to eat together – in spite of physical and cognitive disabilities, eating and moving challenges, and frequent deaths. I question this social practice considering that residents often declare they do not want to live in institution, and do not want to share mealtimes with others.  Eating together is a daily rule in all types of nursing homes – public, commercial, or associative. Eating alone is always an exception with a medically justified reason.

From the institutional point-of-view, the shared meal practice is built around the values of the French conviviality, and the institutional appropriation of the French public health discourse on the undernutrition of elderly people.

Thanks to participant observations of mealtimes during four months in two nursing homes, I intend to describe how the social practice of eating together produces forms of social control of the body according to different health restrictions. Depending on the health condition of the elderly people, they face various body management (ex: table placing, type of food service), and various forms of food incorporations (ex: “normal”, “all pureed”).

I aim to show how the daily practice of eating together often produces typologies of eater’s, far away from gender, social and generational conditions of the residents.

In the context of control of the embodied dimension of the selves during mealtimes, I propose to focus attention on forms of deviant behavior of residents as forms of self expression in different social conditions. By way of example, attempted negotiations with the nurses, continuous criticism or refusal to eat will be analyzed with gender and social categories references.