The Holy Gram: Strategy and Tactics in the Primary School Canteen

Filippo Oncini

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In this ethnography of three Italian primary school canteens I use de Certeau’s concepts of strategy and tactics to examine how the biopolitical construction of a healthy meal is subjected to resistances by parents, teachers, children, and cooks. I first illustrate how the top–down model on nutrition stems from global and national organizations, is deciphered and transformed by local agencies, and eventually becomes a healthy meal, perfectly balanced in its nutrients. Later, I show how subjects involved in its reception challenge the top–down model and develop intentional tactics that withstand the scientific knowledge of the nutritionists that construct the menu: parents and teachers contest the experts’ authority, cooks cheat on grams, children eat more (or less) than they should. Taking a different approach from studies that highlight the undesirable and coercive outcomes of biopower, I argue that in these school canteens subjects are not trapped by biopedagogies but deploy their agencies by questioning, eluding, and even subverting the rationale of the school meal.
Original languageUndefined
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Early online date28 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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