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Virtual seminar: Prof Liz Parsons - University of Liverpool and Dr. Elaine Swan - University of Sussex

Wednesday, 21 April 2021
12:30 to 14:00
Prof Liz Parsons, Dr Elaine Swan
Virtual event

Topic: Foodwork and Foodcare in Hard Times.

As part of The Centre for Organisations and Society (COS)'s monthly online seminar series.

Presentation One:

Title: Foodwork and Foodcare in Hard Times: Mothering, Value and Values

Speaker: Prof Liz Parsons, University of Liverpool


In this paper we analyse the foodwork of mothers when feeding their families on low and reduced incomes. By exploring their accounts of food shopping and household budgeting, we argue that foodwork is intrinsically linked to other areas of social life and dominant values associated with ‘good mothering’. Through a careful consideration of the contexts and relations in which foodwork is valued, embedded and made meaningful we draw two key conclusions. First, we find that mothers’ foodwork is oriented towards avoiding devaluation and maintaining a level of respectability as opposed to accumulating cultural capital. Second, we introduce the concept of foodcare arguing that it potentially offers low income mothers an alternative to the logic of capital for their demonstration of self-worth.

Presentation Two:

Title: COVID-19 foodwork, race, gender, class and food justice: an intersectional feminist analysis

Presenter: Dr. Elaine Swan, University of Sussex


In this paper, I introduce the feminist concept of domestic foodwork to the discussions of the COVID-19 pandemic to draw out its racialised, gendered and classed hierarchies and inequalities. As I have written elsewhere, women’s foodwork has been neglected by organisation studies, even with emerging interest in food studies in recent conferences and special issues (Swan, forthcoming). It is clear that the global pandemic reveals and accentuates existing social and health inequalities related to food access and food production and creates new food-related vulnerabilities and moralities now and in the future (Barker and Russell, 2020; Fernando, 2020; Maye, 2020; Valley et al., 2020). As lockdown and the pandemic took hold worldwide, commentary on food production and consumption has surged, but to date, most of it erases women’s food labours in the domestic and public spheres. Women are taking on new responsibilities, labours and roles without any alleviation of their existing responsibilities, or provision of extra benefits or concerns for their well-being and all of these additional burdens established through gendered, raced and classed power relations of governing during the pandemic (McLaren et al., 2020). I argue that foodwork practices and meanings are unevenly distributed by race and class, and the pandemic magnifies difficulties with food that many people were struggling with pre-COVID including affordability and access to food. But inequalities in domestic foodwork go broader and deeper, with foodwork underpinning ideals about good mothering, eating right, ec-healthism and practices of cultural reproduction which become impossible for working class white and racially minoritised women in the context of food poverty, work poverty, lockdown and continuing pandemic structures and practices. Gender, race and class have not been taken account of sufficiently in interpersonal, societal and policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (McLaren et al., 2020). Moreover, feminist analyses have received relatively little attention from those formulating responses to the pandemic (Social Politics, 2020). I argue that rather than advocating for food reform, we need to develop food justice which attends to gendered, classed and racialised power dynamics, identities and hierarchies embedded within the food system, food policies and food activism, and significantly for those of us in academia, in studies of food.

Click here to join the seminar.


Professor Liz Parsons is based at the University of Liverpool Management School. She is an interdisciplinary researcher with interests in the sociology of consumption, gender and organisation and critical marketing. She is co-editor in chief of the journal Marketing Theory which promotes critical and alternative approaches to understanding markets and consumption.

Dr Elaine Swan is a feminist critical race food studies scholar, senior lecturer in the Future of Work hub and fellow of the Sustainability Programme at Sussex University Business School. She has written widely on food pedagogies and food social enterprises (see for instance, Flowers and Swan, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015) and foodwork (see for instance, Swan, 2020; Swan, Perrier and Sayers, forthcoming; Perrier and Swan, 2019). She also researches critical diversity studies (2016, 2010, 2008) and published on the interface between psy cultures and the workplace (Swan, 2020, 2017, 2008)). Her work is always informed by critical race and feminist scholars. She is a PI on a UKRI five-year grant led by Reading University on the Co-production of healthy, sustainable food systems for disadvantaged communities. She co-directs the Brighton and Sussex Universities Food Network (see blog and twitter) and blogs at She likes eating food better than making it but makes a mean parsnip rosti.