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Participation in Aarhus Food Festival

Subject: Anthropology. Course title: In addition to courses. Level: Both Bachelor and Master's class. 

Motivation for the activity

I am participating in Aarhus Food Festival because it is useful in relation to my own research into food. But I can not interview 1,000 people on my own, so I therefore involve the students in my research.

Description of the activity

I have taken students with me to the Food Festival twice.

I start a project group approx. six months before the festival itself. I do this by picking students from different classes and years; for example, I heard that there were fourth-semester students who were doing something with food. So I tapped them on the shoulder. Subsequently one of my colleagues told me that he had a student who was writing a Master's thesis on food. And one of the students recommended a friend from another class who also wanted to do something with food.

In this way I suddenly had a group of student volunteers who came from different classes and years and who did not have to take an exam. It worked a little like a study group that is solely driven by interest.

In order to involve the students in the project and have them in the tent during the festival, I had to get them ready academically. I therefore give them texts, hold meetings with them, introduce them to my research and get them to try some experiments that can be used during the festival.

During the course of the festival

This year, the students had set-up some stations on sense perception and taste, where visitors e.g. drank blue milk and heard some eating sounds, while they made a note of which word they came to think of.

4-5 students were always in the tent, conducting interviews and taking field notes. We had placed a computer in a corner of the tent where you could sit and write-up your field notes.

After the festival

After the festival I have 1,000 completed forms that need to be analysed and processed. Here I involve Bachelor students on their third semester, who have Analysis as a subject, where they have some small exercises. I divide the three classes into 18 groups, who each receive 50 forms, and I then ask them to apply an ANT perspective to the words. I receive one or two pages from each group on the content of the forms. In this way, the students get to make use of what they have learned - and I get a little help as well.

Concurrent with this I still meet with the other group, where we evaluate what happened at the festival, etc. They would like to help make a film about it and we are writing an article together. The article that I published together with the students in 2012 has been peer-reviewed.

Outcome of the activity

I cannot carry out these activities alone. The work that the students have done has been very useful for me. It is relevant and theoretically well-founded.

The students have some refreshing perspectives on things. Their commitment and the way in which they think about my project inspires me. They have some crazy analyses that are good and usable.

For the students this means that they get their name on a published article. The work gives them a contact to the real world outside and they have the opportunity to communicate their academic skills to the general public, and they can put that on their CV.

The composition across subjects and years also means that the students get a better connection to the subject. There are social and professional aspects to involving the students in this way.

Reflections on the activity

There are some structural and administrative hurdles involved in incorporating the students in your research and carrying out projects in this way. It may be difficult to categorise administratively: Is it research or is it teaching? I meet with the students in our leisure time - but it is still teaching of course as we read texts and debate in relation to the project.

When I have the students as co-writers on a peer-reviewed article, I cannot receive all the points because I have to share with them. This can be a messy affair.

So far the students have felt a moral commitment to the project because they know they cannot allow themselves to pull out and leave me standing in the tent alone. I have considered whether I will have to get them to sign a contract. But on the other hand I do not want to formalise our collaboration too much.

About Aarhus Food Festival

The Food Festival is held every year in September at Tangkrogen in Aarhus. Read more about Food Festival.


Susanne Højlund Pedersen

Associate professor
H 4236, 114
P +4587162125