Unit 1 Writing: Observation and analysis

For your Unit I writing assignment I’d like you to apply what we’ve discussed regarding the interaction between food and socially constructed identities by visiting a commercial or community site focused on food here in Richmond.

Choose a store, restaurant, market, or community space that you feel ties food to identity in some interesting way. Visit that space, and spend some time there making observations about all aspects of that space and its messaging. This might include promotional materials, decor, recipes, the dress of staff members, etc. Make as many notes as you can, taking photos if you need to prompt your memory (do not photograph employees).

Return home and write an analysis of what you observed, using 1-3 external sources to either support or complicate your analysis. These sources can explore the identity constructed, other instances in which that identity interacts with foods, or other context for the space you’re studying.

Some questions for guidance:

  • What identities are prioritized by this space? Are these identities of choice (i.e. “vegans”) or identities that more deeply constructed by external socialization (i.e. races or genders)? How can you answer these questions using what you’ve observed?
  • Just as some identities will be targeted as “belonging,” some will be omitted. This can happen incidentally (i.e. when a Thai restaurant omits German food it reflects the owners’ desire to be focused rather than exclusionary; this kind of choice doesn’t exclude German customers) or more deliberately (i.e. when an upscale restaurant communicates a sense of who “belongs” using class cues, creating a sense of exclusion through design and real exclusion through pricing). What identities are constructed to be absent? What does this tell us about this space and its communities?
  • How does this construction of identity interact with other political realities in our community? What can we learn from studying a space like this?

750-1000 words, due Friday February 9th.