University of Edinburgh Business School

Network Project


Overall this study seeks to build an understanding of the dynamic and fluid notion of ‘family’ over a historical period, recognizing and acknowledging the political and socio-cultural contexts shaping these impressions and perceptions.

Project Aims


We used a longitudinal and comparative study of UK and Australian advertising in popular magazines to systematically analyse advertisements, editorials, advertorials, and advisory columns, focusing on family and food over the past fifty years.

More on our Project Methodology


This project has resulted in a number of workshop and publication outcomes since 2011.

View our Project Outcomes


Adopting a Foucauldian (1988) perspective on subjectivity formation, Chambers (2001) suggests that by studying discursive practices within sites like the family, we understand better the processes and construction of such discourses (Chambers 2001: 26). The findings of the ‘Changing food, Changing Families’ project at the University of Sheffield (Jackson 2010) suggest that ‘family’ is a socially constructed entity performed into being by practices such as eating together. Using Chambers and the Sheffield study as starting points we follow representations of food and family in popular culture to identify how it shapes what is and what is not ‘family’.

This study examines food and family from socio-culturally constructed representations in popular media. We begin with the family as a site of discursive practice and food as a discursive consumption practice (De Vault 1994) and build on the work of researchers who have examined changing representations of food and eating in women’s magazines, focusing on cookery columns (Mennell 1985; Warde 1997), food advertisements (Barthes 1957/1973; Parkin 2006) or a combination of food-related advertisements and editorial items (Santich 1995) and on our previous work (Schneider and Davis 2010a and 2010b).

We extend this to a comparison of two countries (Australia and the UK) with similar cultural contexts. Using a line of argument that food and family are inextricably linked in magazine advertising portrayals (Burridge 2010), the study examines the similarities/differences between the discourses around the family, home, lifestyle, food and marketing constructed in popular culture in both countries. It contributes to the ongoing debate about the role of media in shaping consumer culture, and particularly the role of marketing in promoting particular consumer subjectivities (Schneider and Davis 2010a, Burridge 2010, Schroeder and Borgerson 2005).