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Text & Talk

An Interdisciplinary Journal of Language, Discourse & Communication Studies

Ed. by Sarangi, Srikant

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Volume 34, Issue 1


Food talk: a window into inequality among university students

Yasmine Dominguez-Whitehead / Kevin A. Whitehead
Published Online: 2014-01-03 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2013-0037


Although initially related to the country's colonial and apartheid history, material inequality in South Africa has deepened, with recent research suggesting that South Africa now has the highest levels of inequality in the world. In this paper, we examine the interactional reproduction of inequality by paying particular attention to the discursive and interactional practices employed in students' talk about food. Specifically, we examine foodrelated troubles talk and foodrelated jokes and humor, showing how students who described foodrelated troubles produced these troubles as shared and systemic, while students who produced foodrelated jokes displayed that they take for granted the material resources needed to have a range of food consumption choices available to them, while treating food consumption as a matter of individual choice. These orientations were collaboratively produced through a range of interactionally organized practices, including patterns of alignment and disalignment, pronoun use, laughter, and aspects of the formulation of utterances. While our analysis primarily focuses on these discursive and interactional practices, we also consider how discursive practices can be linked to the material conditions of participants' lives outside of the analyzed interactions.

Keywords: inequality; food talk; troubles talk; jokes/humor; university students; South Africa

About the article

Yasmine Dominguez-Whitehead

Yasmine Dominguez-Whitehead is Lecturer in the Wits School of Education at the University of the Witwatersrand. Her research interests lie in sociology of education, diversity in education, student experiences and social issues within higher education, institutional transformation, and university management. Address for correspondence: Wits School of Education, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa 〈 〉.

Kevin A. Whitehead

Kevin A. Whitehead is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand. His research focuses on the development of an ethnomethodological, conversation analytic approach to studying race and other categorical forms of social organization and inequality. In particular, he is interested in the ways in which racial and other social categories are used, resisted, and reproduced in talkininteraction. Address for correspondence: Department of Psychology, University of the Witwatersrand, Private Bag 3, Wits 2050, Johannesburg, South Africa 〈 〉.

Published Online: 2014-01-03

Published in Print: 2014-01-01

Citation Information: Text & Talk, Volume 34, Issue 1, Pages 49–68, ISSN (Online) 1860-7349, ISSN (Print) 1860-7330, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/text-2013-0037.

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