Måltidsfellesskap i barnehagen – Demokratiets vugge?: En studie av samtaler med ansatte på småbarnsavdelinger.

Tofteland, B.
Doktorgradsavhandling. Universitetet i Stavanger.


The purpose of this dissertation is to provide a perspective on mealtime situations in an ECEC setting (barnehage). These situations are assumed to be regulated by cultural and institutional rules. Based on this hypothesis, ECEC staff do not necessarily have to agree on the mealtime setting. In the dissertation, staff’s disagreements are viewed as discursive battles on the right to define the dimensions of the mealtime community. The overall intention of the dissertation is therefore to study (1) how a mealtime community is constructed discursively in the ECEC staff’s conversations and (2) how the constructed conditions for mealtime participation can be understood from a democratic perspective.



The results of the dissertation are presented in three articles which cover four general aspects of mealtime communities in the examined ECEC centres. The aspects of structure, participant identities, relations and feelings are given meaning - to different degrees - through the discourses of the interviews, and thereby contribute to creating the nature of mealtime communities. Furthermore, the researcher highlights the concept of the pluralistic mealtime community, through which the four abovementioned aspects are given meaning in relation to one another.


The results from the first article indicate the presence of two overall discourses in the ECEC centre staff’s conversations about mealtime - an order discourse and an exploration discourse. The primary function of the order discourse is to neutralise any possible threats to the mealtime community, while the exploration discourse seeks to construct an inclusive mealtime community with room for different identities.


In the second article, the researcher shows how the mealtime can be viewed as something other than an organised community. This is achieved by perceiving mealtime as an open system on the edge of chaos, where participants take part as a collective voice and as unique individuals.


The third part of the dissertation focuses on the construction of the individual’s identity as a mealtime participant. Overall, the article shows that mealtime communities can be constructed by participants who have individual, collective and different collective identities. This conclusion is based on the analysis of the five discourses: a community discourse, a discourse on being at ease, a vulnerability discourse, a need discourse and an enjoyment discourse.


The empirical basis of this dissertation consists of seven qualitative group interviews with a total of 18 members of staff in four different nurseries at two separate ECEC centres. Each interview was conducted immediately following a mealtime and was centred around a drawing that the interviewees had been asked to draw prior to the interview. The drawing served as a ‘contact zone’ thereby providing the conversations with a common starting point. Based on discourse-analytical perspectives, the researcher then identified the dominant discourses present in interviews with ECEC staff to discuss the dissertation's research question.



Tofteland, B. (2015). Måltidsfellesskap i barnehagen – Demokratiets vugge?: En studie av samtaler med ansatte på småbarnsavdelinger. Doktorgradsavhandling. Universitetet i Stavanger.

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