University of Notre Dame

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Beyond Nourishment: A Biocultural Analysis of Meaning Making, Dietary Practices, and Insect Eating in the Times of COVID-19

posted on 2024-03-22, 19:02 authored by Kayla J. Hurd

Employing an engaged, integrative anthropological framework, this dissertation investigated how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted people’s ability to feed themselves and their families, how consumption becomes embodied, and how external, structural factors such as crises affect and inform how people make nutritious choices. This research provides a grounded ethnographic and biocultural example of how people protect their bodies via their thoughts, perceptions, and behavior regarding food in order to make sense of the changing sociocultural world around them. As such, this dissertation expands our understanding of how people make sense of, choose, and embody necessary objects, like food, in rapidly changing contexts.

This dissertation advances and adds nuance to our understanding of the food as a form of ethnomedicine as well as people’s decision and meaning making surrounding food choice during the COVID-19 pandemic. This research evaluated how people’s perceptions became embodied by analyzing nutritional data collected from both prior to and during the pandemic using mixed anthropological methodologies. This dissertation additionally brings to light an ethnographically- and methodologically-rich view of insect eating that complicates the ways in which people—those who have historically and culturally consumed insects as well as those new and apprehensive of the practice—view and conceptualize insects as food. As a whole, this dissertation brings together a comprehensive, integrative investigation of nutritional habits to operationalize what it means to go beyond nourishment—viewing food not just as something to eat, but as a bridge between lived realities and local biologies assisting people in making sense of the world around them, especially amidst unprecedented change.


Date Modified


Defense Date


CIP Code

  • 45.0201

Research Director(s)

Vania Smith-Oka

Committee Members

Aidan Seale-Feldman Julie J. Lesnik


  • Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Level

  • Doctoral Dissertation

Alternate Identifier


OCLC Number


Program Name

  • Anthropology

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