I am a social scientist and historian and have been based in the Rowett Institute since early 2018. As Principal Investigator, I lead Government-funded research into food insecurity in Scotland, 'alternative' food networks, and the relationship between eating practices and socio-economic context. More information about my work can be found in the 'research' and 'publications' tabs. In 2017, I was elected as the first academic trade union nominee to the Court (governing body) of the University of Aberdeen.
I have worked for the University of Aberdeen since 2007, as a researcher and then a lecturer in the School of Geosciences. Previously, I worked at the Scottish Agricultural College (now SRUC) and at the universities of Coventry and Bristol. I studied at the universities of Bristol (PhD and MSc) and London (BA).
My research explores intersections of economy, society and culture. It does so primarily through our relationships with food.
This research interest takes a number of forms. I am interested in: food insecurity and how it can be tackled; how economic circumstances and food consumption practices are linked; how consumers and producers construct, materially and conceptually, 'alternative' economic networks, both now and in the past. This work is informed by cultural political economy, and I am currently working on how this perspective can be applied to smaller and micro-scales though an engagement with the work of Max Weber and Pierre Bourdieu.
I am also interested in the social construction of technologies, professional knowledges and practices. This is manifested in work that examines: the cultural construction of hunting and 'peripheral' rural areas; the historical social definition of network industries (specifically railways); and the development of specialist forms of practice (e.g. meat inspectors, marketers), which draws on Michel Foucault's work on the development of specialist bodies of knowledge.
Food Insecurity in Scotland (2016-21, PI)
This research is funded by the Scottish Government's Environment, Agriculture and Food Strategic Research Programme. It has two main components:
1. A qualitative exploration of the lived experience of food insecurity, drawing on the experiences of people who declared themselves, in the Scottish Health Survey, to have suffered some form of food insecurity over the previous twelve months.
2. The evaluation of a natural experiment aimed at reducing childhood food insecurity.
Local Food (2016-21, PI)
This research is funded by the Scottish Government's Environment, Agriculture and Food Strategic Research Programme. It has two main objectives:
1. To generate new insights, through a large-scale survey, of the activities of and links between small and medium-sized food growing, processing and retailing enterprises, with a particular focus on the investigation of their involvement (or not) in 'alternative' food networks.
2. To build on the survey by examining the development, in real time, of new forms of food enterprise networking.
Healthy food practices and their socio-economic context (2018-20, PI)
Previous work by colleagues in the Rowett Institute identified, from analysis of data from the National Diet & Nutrition Survey (NDNS), that about ten per cent of people on low incomes eat significantly healthier diets than others in similar economic circumstances. This project is conducting qualitative research with opted-in NDNS respondents in order to improve our understanding of the social and cultural factors that enable people on modest incomes to eat a healthy diet.
Bill Strachan, A History of Meat Inspection in the UK, 1904-2004 (2017-20). Co-supervised with Dr Ben Marsden (History). Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (through the Scottish Graduate School of Social Science) and the Association of Meat Inspectors (1+3 Collaborative Studentship).
Lucy Sam, An Investigation of Domestic Food Practices and Routines and their Determinants (2016-20). Co-supervised with Prof. Jennie Macdiarmid (Rowett Institute) and Dr Tony Craig (James Hutton Institute). Funded by the Rowett Institute.
Giles O’Donovan (p/t), Re-thinking Food Security and Food Governance, with special reference to horticulture (2015-20). Supervised with Prof. Deb Roberts (James Hutton Institute & University of Aberdeen Business School).
Ross Young (p/t), Urban Farming: Concepts and Practice (2014-19). Supervised with Prof. Alex Johnstone (Rowett Institute) and Dr Katrin Prager (Geography). Fees paid by a University of Aberdeen Elphinstone Studentship.
Completed PhD projects
Ramona Statache, Social Media Embeddedness for Small and Medium Tourism Enterprises in Scotland. Supervised with Dr Rachel Shanks (Education) and Dr Mark Beecroft (Geography). Ramona recently submitted her thesis and will be examined in March 2019.
Dr Stoyka Chipchakova, Addressing food security by controlling the risk of food poisoning: a case study of listeriosis in the Scottish smoked salmon industry. Co-supervised with Profs Norval Strachan (Physics) and Ken Forbes (Medical Sciences). Stoyka graduated in November 2018.
Dr Annabelle McLaren-Thomson, Small tourism businesses in rural Scotland: Exploring owner-managers’ understandings of social sustainability. Co-supervised with Professor Colin Hunter (University of St Andrews). Annabelle graduated (from St Andrews) in November 2016.
Previous research funding
Understanding consumers’ food choices in Scotland (2015-16, PI), funded by the Scottish Government's Environment, Agriculture and Food Strategic Research Programme.
This project used Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus to analyse the meanings ascribed to food by consumers and how these link to habitual food consumption patterns. Data were gathered using qualitative interviews and by respondents keeping food purchase and consumption diaries.
Consumers’ attitudes towards plant-derived proteins as an alternative to meat (2015-16, Co-I), funded by the Scottish Government.
This work used focus groups to explore people’s willingness to reduce meat consumption by replacing some of it with plant-derived proteins. It was part of a larger project that sought new ways of reducing meat consumption.
The cultural political economy of co-operation in Britain: an historical geography perspective (2013, PI). The work was funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, with in-kind support from the University of Aberdeen.
Visiting Scholarship (2012) at the Ruralia Institute, Seinäjoki Unit, University of Helsinki (Finland).
My main teaching responsibility is the coordination of Worlds of Food, a popular (ca 120 students each year) interdisciplinary course which is open to all third and fourth year undergarduate students regardless of degree intention. I also teach on food security as part of the postgraduate course Public Health Nutrition (part of the Rowett Institute's MSc in Human Nutrition) and on The Scientific Revolution and the Origins of Modern Science (level 1 undergraduate course in History). My teaching responsibilities are currently modest, as I have worked primarily in research since joining the Rowett Institute in 2018.
Prior to joining the Rowett Institute, my teaching duties included:
Design and coordination of two innovative inter-disciplinary courses (Worlds of Food and Globalisation) for Honours level (levels 3 and 4) undergraduates
Supervision of postgraduate and undergraduate dissertation projects
Design and delivery of a Senior Honours (level 4) course Geographies of Food
Design and coordination of a Junior Honours (level 3) course Concepts in Human Geography
Coordination of level 2 course Space, Economy and Society
Lecturing and small-group teaching at level 1
I also led a review of sub-Honours teaching in human geography and was interim Exams Officer in 2016
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Member of the James Hutton Institute's Research Ethics Committee (since 2015).
Member of the Court (governing body) of the University of Aberdeen (2017-20)
Member of Policy and Resources Committee (sub-committee of Court)
Elected member of Senate for the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition (2018-20)