School Mealtimes: Resistance in the Course of Living

Samantha Stone

Research output: ThesisMaster's Thesis

40 Downloads (Pure)


This research will explore the everyday lives of children and dinner ladies during their school mealtimes practices. More specifically, it will investigate how resistance occurs in everyday interactions between the relations of children, their peers and dinner ladies. Much of school mealtime policy and research has been shaped and continues to be shaped by the promotion of nutrition and health. However, this does not capture the social significance of mealtimes or offer any understanding of institutional school mealtime practices. At present, there is limited research that understands how children read and negotiate school mealtime situations and how dinner ladies control the boundaries and respond to contestations of the rules. This research attempts to fill this gap in knowledge and contribute to school mealtime literature.

Using ethnographic evidence this research explores how different forms of resistance are used by children and dinner ladies during mealtime practices in a primary school, in South West England. The research aims to rethink resistance in school and explore the school mealtime as an integral part of children’s socialisation in education. To illustrate these ideas, this dissertation draws on the analytical frameworks of Ochs and Shohet (2006) to explore mealtime socialisation, Foucault theory of resistance (1967, 1991) and Valsiner’s (2015) three levels of resistance. Drawing on Ochs and Shohet’s (2006) ethnographic evidence from various parts of the world, it is argued that food and eating is not just biologically significant but a way of becoming competent and appropriate members of family and community. Foucault offers insight into disciplinary powers and more importantly, why resistance might traverse, but not exclusively, in opposition to the effects of power. Whilst Valsiner’s work on resistance, illustrates that everyday resistance can be complex, silent and sometimes counter intuitive. My research seeks to contribute to the understanding of how resistance can be understood during school mealtimes. The research will conclude that resistance during school mealtimes can be deployed by children and dinner ladies explicitly and more commonly, through implicit means.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
  • Murakami, Kyoko, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date18 Nov 2015
Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


  • School
  • mealtime
  • resistance
  • children
  • socialisation


Dive into the research topics of 'School Mealtimes: Resistance in the Course of Living'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this