School of Humanities
Faculty of Arts
Jessica Loyer holds a PhD in Humanities (History/Food Studies) from the University of Adelaide, an MA in Gastronomy from the University of Adelaide and Le Cordon Bleu, and a BA in History from Barnard College, New York. Her research investigates historical and contemporary food and nutrition culture, as well as seeks to conceptually connect food production and consumption through interdisciplinary social research methods.
Superfoods have emerged as an increasingly significant category of health food products and related popular discourse about food and health. They are celebrated for their purported extraordinary nutritional and/or medicinal values, ‘natural’ qualities, associations with ‘exotic’ or ‘pristine’ places of origin, and histories of traditional or indigenous use. However, the term ‘superfood’ defies precise definition, and both products and discourse are poorly understood by the public and regulatory bodies.
Existing scholarship has examined social, cultural, political, and economic aspects of related concepts and products, such as functional foods and low carbohydrate diets, demonstrating ways in which new forms and ideas emerge through the convergence of nutritional science discourse, globalised food provisioning, and the commodification of food and health. These studies have largely focused on the nutritional anxieties felt by Western consumers. Other literature has paid greater attention to the impacts of the globalisation and industrialisation of food and agriculture on producers, often located in the developing world. Research bridging worlds of food production and consumption is called for, but only recently beginning to emerge in the scholarly literature.
There is currently no existing scholarship examining superfoods in particular. Because superfoods can be understood both as a discourse about food and health and a group of agro-food products, they offer a distinctive lens through which to conceptually bring together geographically (and, often, socioculturally) distant worlds of production and consumption. In drawing together these diverse worlds, I employ a ‘biography-of-things’ approach inspired by the work of Appadurai and Kopytoff. Drawing upon assemblage theory, actor network theory, and circuits of culture theory, and employing a case study design encompassing diverse social science methodologies, this study examines the emergence of superfoods as a sociocultural form.
The research demonstrates how a range of seemingly disparate existing elements, including developments in nutritional science, neoliberal trade agendas, traditional indigenous knowledge, food processing and transportation technologies, changing ideas about food, health, and ethics, and the proliferation of digital media, are drawn together in the creation of a new form with broad social and environmental impacts. It has implications for future research into the cultural power of in-between (food) objects and the ways in which they enable us to examine the tensions that pull at contemporary food culture.
Date Position Institution name 2017 Visiting Research Fellow University of Adelaide, Adelaide 2017 - 2017 Tutor, Empires in World History University of Adelaide, Adelaide 2017 Curriculum Developer William Angliss Institute 2016 - 2016 Tutor, Media Research Methods University of Adelaide 2016 - 2017 Tutor, Communicating Science University of Adelaide, Adelaide 2016 - 2017 Research Assistant, Media and Food Politics University of Tasmania 2016 - 2016 Tutor, Empires in World History University of Adelaide 2015 - 2015 Research Assistant, Sustainable Food Systems University of Tasmania 2015 - 2015 Guest Lecturer, Food and Drink in World History University of Adelaide 2013 Research Assistant, Food Values Research Group University of Adelaide 2012 - 2012 Tutor, Food and Drink in World History University of Adelaide 2008 - 2008 Tutor, Principles of Gastronomy University of Adelaide
Awards and Achievements
Date Type Title Institution Name Country Amount 2015 Scholarship Student Research Grant Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery United Kingdom — 2014 Scholarship Doreen McCarthy Bursary Australian Federation of University Women South Australia Australia 2750 2013 Scholarship Research Abroad Scholarship University of Adelaide Graduate Centre Australia — 2012 Scholarship Australian Postgraduate Award University of Adelaide Australia —
Language Competency Spanish; Castilian Can read, speak and understand spoken
Date Institution name Country Title 2012 - 2016 University of Adelaide Australia PhD 2006 - 2007 University of Adelaide and Le Cordon Bleu Australia MA 1998 - 2002 Barnard College United States BA
Year Citation 2018 Loyer, J., & Knight, C. (2018). Selling the “Inca superfood”: nutritional primitivism in superfoods books and maca marketing. Food, Culture and Society, 21(4), 449-467.
2017 Loyer, J. (2017). The cranberry as food, health food, and superfood: challenging or maintaining hegemonic nutrition?. Graduate Journal of Food Studies, 4(2), 33-49.
Year Citation 2016 Loyer, J. (2016). Superfoods. In P. B. Thompson, & D. M. Kaplan (Eds.), Encyclopedia of food and agricultural ethics (2nd ed., pp. 1-7). Springer Netherlands.
2014 Loyer, J. (2014). Functional Foods as Commodities. In P. Thompson, & D. Kaplan (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics (pp. 1064-1072). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
Year Citation 2017 Loyer, J. (2017). What makes a superfoods “super”? The discursive construction of utopian edibles. Poster session presented at the meeting of Proceedings of the 21st Symposium of Australian Gastronomy : Utopian Appetites. Melbourne, Australia. 2017 Loyer, J., & Beckett, E. (2017). Does nutrition science (mis)inform our diets?. Poster session presented at the meeting of Emerging Issues in Science and Society. Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. 2016 Loyer, J. (2016). Marketing Australian Chia Seed: Functional Nutritionism Meets Nutritional Primitivism. Poster session presented at the meeting of Scarborough Fare: Global Foodways and Local Foods in a Transnational City. Joint 2016 Annual Meetings & Conference of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS), Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS), & Canadian Association for Food Studies. Toronto, Canada. 2016 Loyer, J., & Buddle, E. (2016). A 'Natural' Symbol: Nature, Morality, and Politics in Online Raw Milk Advocacy Communities. Poster session presented at the meeting of Food Politics: From the Margins to the Mainstream. University of Tasmania. 2014 Loyer, J. (2014). Jewish Sabbath Cooking in Australia: One Pot, Many Meanings. Poster session presented at the meeting of Australian Association of Jewish Studies Conference. Adelaide, Australia. 2014 Loyer, J. (2014). Contesting Definitions of Sustainability in the Massachusetts Cranberry Industry. Poster session presented at the meeting of International Food Studies Conference. Adelaide, Australia.
Year Citation 2016 Loyer, J. (2016). The Social Lives of Superfoods. (PhD Thesis, University of Adelaide). 2007 Loyer, J. (2007). A pot of many meanings : the shifting shape and symbolism of Shabbat stew from the old world to the new. (Master's Thesis, University of Adelaide).
Year Citation 2016 Loyer, J. (2016). Smoothies as talismans: the allure of superfoods and the dangers of nutritional primitivism. The Conversation.
2015. Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery Student Research Grant.
2014. Australian Federation of University Women South Australia, Doreen McCarthy Bursary
2013. University of Adelaide Graduate Centre Research Abroad Scholarship.
2012-2015. Australian Postgraduate Award.
Curriculum Developer, William Angliss Institute, Melbourne, 2016-2017:
- Diet and Health in Society
- Food Movements and Social Change
Guest Lecturer, Food and Drink in World History, 2015:
- Continuity and Change in Central and South American Foodways
- Food and Medicine in Latin America
- Food and Gender
- History of Nutrition and Dietary Advice
Tutor in Humanities, Business, and Science:
- History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, 2017
- Empires in World History, 2017 & 2016
- Science Communication, 2017 & 2016
- History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, 2017
- Innovation and Creativity, 2017
- Media Research Methods, 2016
- Food and Drink in World History, 2012
- Principles of Gastronomy, 2008
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