I was born and raised in rural Kentucky, and my avid interest in encyclopedias kept me occupied on the farm until I moved to an actual city to go to college. I graduated with a degree in Psychology, but after having traveled abroad to Italy, Turkey, and Greece, I discovered that I was more interested in learning about culture as a whole, rather than simply one aspect of culture (such as psychology). I felt that Anthropology offered the best method for studying human history and behavior, and I embarked on a graduate career in Anthropology in 2005 at Alabama. In 2007 I graduated with a Master’s in Anthropology, and in 2012 I graduated with a Ph.D. in Biocultural Medical Anthropology.
Perhaps because of my agricultural heritage, my research centers on food. While my studies have a nutrition component, I focus not only on the nutritional content of food but the cultural, social and political values that are imbued with certain foods as well. Below I describe my most recent studies. In all of the studies I used face-to-face interview techniques, and, the hallmark of ethnographic research, participant observation. I have also extensively used the method of cultural consensus analysis in my studies. Cultural consensus analysis is a tool that allows ethnographers to quantitatively measure the ideological components of a particular cultural domain, and to measure the degree that people within a certain group share that cultural knowledge.
In 2005-2007, I carried out research concerning cultural values and disordered eating among college women. I compared the cultural values of romance and body image between sorority and non-sorority women. My findings suggest that there is a significant relationship between sorority membership, valuing the goal of finding a husband, and disordered eating beliefs and behaviors. My research also demonstrated that even though sorority women have higher risk factors for disordered eating, they also benefit from being an elite group on campus with a large degree of social support. This research has been presented at numerous professional conferences, including the Society of Applied Anthropology and the American Anthropological Association meetings.
In 2007-2009 Dr. Kathryn Oths and I conducted research on farmers markets in the southeastern US and across the nation. Since there is growing interest in local food and farmers markets are rapidly expanding across the US, we wanted to research the difference in “cultural” values across different farmers markets types (i.e., grower-only, wholesale, craft versus produce only venues). Luckily, we had the opportunity to study this phenomenon right here in Tuscaloosa. For over 30 years Tuscaloosa had a long-standing farmers market. In 2007, the city began planning for the relocation and revamping of the previously self-governing farmers market. At the same time, interest in local foods was growing in Tuscaloosa, and another farmers market had popped up near campus. All of the interest and development in local food seemed like a bonus for Tuscaloosa, but a lot of controversy was cropping up between farmers, customers, and city officials regarding the specific needs of farmers and customers and the future of farmers markets in Tuscaloosa. We used ethnographic methods to explore and compare the cultural values that all interested parties had in the farmers markets. Our study was presented to the mayor and was useful in the design of the new farmers market facility. Our research also resulted in several conference presentations, and was published in the Journal of the Ecology of Food and Nutrition.
Following an interest in the local food movement, in 2008 I went to Havana, Cuba to study urban agriculture and local food production. Most of the produce in Havana comes from local sources, which is quite opposite to the American foodway which is completely centralized (your apple might come from the supermarket down the street but it probably originated 1000s of miles away). Despite the embargo, American goods and food pour in to Cuba via exiles—most of whom live in Miami. In 2009-2011 I carried out fieldwork on the foodways and cultural values of food in South Florida. I focused on how different Cuban immigration waves were associated with differing political and cultural values. I investigated how these differing beliefs are manifested in the foods that Cubans eat and the foodways that they create/support. The local food movement has been relatively sluggish in Miami, and my research supported that political values did associate with consumption patterns.
When I am not teaching or doing research in Anthropology, I am teaching, practicing and researching yoga! In between yoga asanas and Anthropology, I enjoy traveling around Europe where I can practice Spanish and French.
Contact Dr. Groves at: email@example.com
Oths K.S., and K.M. Groves. Chestnuts and Spring Chickens: Conflict and Change in Farmers Market Ideologies. Ecology of Food and Nutrition 51:128-147 Full text pdf available.