Surveillance & Society, Vol 7, No 3/4 (2010)

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‘You don’t have to be watched to make your toast’: Surveillance and Food Practices within Residential Care

Ian McIntosh, Samantha Punch, Nika Dorrer, Ruth Emond


This paper explores forms of surveillance within residential care homes for young people. It is argued that surveillance is a crucial aspect of care and this can be experienced as both negative and positive by children and staff. In particular the research was concerned with how forms of control and monitoring are conducted in relation to food and food practices. Relations of power and resistance within the context of a care home are routinely played out and through food. The paper illustrates the ways in which children variously resist and accept regulation and control in relation to food. It also considers the manner in which staff try to implement an ambience and ethos within the care home that is not overtly institutional yet allows them to provide care for the children. In order to achieve this, often contested conceptions of ‘family’ and ‘home’ are drawn upon and operationalised through food related practices and interactions. Three residential care homes for children in central Scotland were studied using a mix of interviewing and ethnographic techniques.

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