Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Angrosino, Michael V.

Keywords

qualitative research with children, food changes, acculturation, immigrant children, ethical issues with children, children's agency

Abstract

The purpose of this dissertation research is to study the experience of adjustment of Colombian immigrant children to living in the U.S. In order to understand the changes they have experienced as immigrants, the research focuses on the ways in which they talk about the food they eat hereand on the foods they ate in Colombia. Because of the symbolic importance of food in the construction of ethnic and personal identities, a study of how the children talk about food illuminates the process of blending elements from the immigrant culture with those of the U.S. Based on the symbolic interactionism approach to culture, this study assumes that participants' representations of foods are shaped by their own experiences through interactions with others. Representations of food result from the interactions between participants and the researcher in the research settings.

With a participatory approach, data were collected through semi-structured interviews conducted with twelve girls and eight boys, and three group sessions with three girls and eight boys. Participants were reached at the Taller Intercultural Hispano Americano and through their parents at the Center for Family Health. Data were analyzed qualitatively following first a process of data reduction and then transforming the interviews and the group sessions into narratives. Analysis of the data shows that participants' changes and adjustment are characterized by an emerging process of creolization, a concept proposed by Foner (1997) to explain patterns of acculturation of immigrant families. Creolization is the central idea articulating and providing meaning to participants' representations of food changes.

Colombian immigrant children living in the U.S. are agents actively blending elements from their immigrant culture with elements they encounter in the U.S. context from which new food patterns reflecting their changing circumstances are emerging. Likewise, Tampa in particular and Florida in general provide a context that facilitates and promotes such blending of meanings both in private spaces such as home and in public ones such as restaurants, due to the presence of long-established Spanish-speaking communities of varying degrees of acculturation.

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