This Friday, I’ll be heading to the Chicago area to attend FARE’s National Food Allergy Conference, June 20-22. I’m looking forward to learning about the latest strategies for managing food allergies in the kitchen, on the job, in relationships, and at school. There’s also a long list of speakers I want to see and people I want to meet in person. I can’t wait to get there!
In advance of the conference, I just want to share a little bit about my background and what I’ll be doing while I’m at the conference. As I explained in my first post, I’m a PhD student and researcher studying the “culture” of food allergies and the significance of allergies in American culture and medicine. Another earlier post explains a little about the history of my primary research method, ethnography, and its history in anthropology and science and technology studies (STS).
One question I get quite frequently is, why study food allergies? The answer is that I got into studying this topic for both personal and intellectual reasons.
On the personal side, I developed a number of environmental allergies that weren’t diagnosed for a long time. Getting them sorted out was a huge positive development in my life. I also have some food-related sensitivities, some diagnosed and some currently in need of re-testing. I came out of my encounter with allergists with lots of questions about how to implement their recommendations and the role of testing in patient care. It turns out lots of folks with food allergies are also really concerned with these issues, so I started talking to doctors and people involved in support communities… and here I am!
On the scholarly side, there’s not much social science research about allergies, and even less about food allergies in particular. I think the challenges of managing food allergies highlight the politics of food production and processing, how people navigate medical treatment at the frontiers of scientific knowledge (think milk and peanut OIT trials), and how experience with a medical condition provides motivation to get involved in education and advocacy. These are all issues that social scientists have studied before, but I think they connect in unique ways when it comes to food allergies.
While I’m at the FARE conference, I’ll be attending lectures, meeting online acquaintances and fellow researchers for coffee between sessions, getting a feel for the general dynamics of the food allergy community, and connecting with people who may be interested in speaking to me for my research after the conference is over. I’m interested in hearing about the nitty gritty details of food allergy research and advocacy work, as well as stories about struggles and strategies for living with food allergies in everyday life.
If you have any questions about my research or want to get in touch at the FARE Conference, drop me a line below or get in touch on Twitter at @allergyPhD.