The School of Geography, Politics and Sociology

Staff Profile

Dr Suzanne Hocknell

Research Associate

Background

After many years working as a chef and co-ordinator within community food projects in Bradford, I began to question how eating-well is framed, comprehended, encountered and enacted.  I moved down south to undertake a MRes in Critical Human Geography at the University of Exeter, before obtaining ESRC funding for my PhD research entitled:  Fat Chance?  Eating-well with margarine, supervised by Prof. Steve Hinchliffe and Prof. Ian Cook. This work engaged a novel play-centred methodology to explore who and what are entangled with the stuff of margarine and why margarine is known and done the way it is.  And investigated how such mundane knowledges and practices shape and are shaped by the ways it appears sensible or possible for human and nonhuman communities to live together.

I am now back up north working as Research Associate at Newcastle University. Still exploring bodies and more-than human communities - sometimes with a focus on microbes, sometimes with food, sometimes with the sea. 



Research

My principal interests lie in developing innovative participatory, creative and ethnographic methodological approaches which ground wider theoretical debates in embodied relationships and performances. In particular my research seeks to rehearse practices of understanding, solidarity and care within and between more-than human communities.

Currently exploring more-than human living together with food, microbial life, the sea, class, ethics, ageing, supply networks and sustainability.

Forthcoming, Spring 2020: Newcastle University Social Justice Fund. Into the Swim of Things: Well-being in older adults in North Tyneside, a case study.  With Dr Graeme Mearns (Newcastle University), Dr Simon Woods (Newcastle University), Prof. Alison Stenning (Newcastle University), Dr Michelle Wood (Sea Tern Print) and the Panama Swimming Club.

A key social justice issue in the North-East is the low life expectancies, and low healthy lifespans relative to much of the UK (Foresight 2014). In addition to wealth, five key elements are identified in the academic and policy literatures as integral to maximising the potential for wellbeing of older individuals and communities. These areas are all too often researched separately. This project will co-create a meaningful and sustainable partnership with a self-managed community organisation and sea-swimming club (PSC) to explore and evidence the PSC as a model whose activities attend to all five elements identified in the literature as key to maximising ageing-well. The project will primarily have relevance to national and local government strategies for older adults by suggesting a model for achieving the benefits of sense of place through active engagement in the critical tripartite of exercise, time in nature, and robust social networks. It is envisaged that it will also evidence the under-researched area of the added value to wellbeing of access to blue-space; inform the work of charities that seek to engage older adults in maximising their potential and minimising loneliness; support the work of Swim England in promoting swimming as an accessible activity that aids physical and mental wellbeing; and evidence the added value of supporting member-run intergenerational organisations as a counterpart to providing costly services for older people.

2018-2020: Research Associate, Newcastle University. Sustainable Consumption, the Middle Classes and Agri-food Ethics in the Global South. ESRC funded project with Alex Hughes PI (Newcastle University) and Mike Crang and Cheryl McEwan (University of Durham), Bob Doherty, Hector Gonzalez and Fernando Fastaso (University of York), Dorothea Kleine and Stefania Vicari (University of Sheffield), Shari Daya (University of Cape Town), Guojun Zeng (Sun Yat-sen University) and Rita Afonso and Roberto Bartholo (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)

Sustainable food consumption spaces and practices in the global South are of critical importance yet remain under-researched and poorly understood because most studies assume that ethical consumers are situated in the global North. Expanding middle class consumption in global South countries is seen simultaneously as providing a potential stimulus to global economic growth and a threat to environmental sustainability. The UN's Sustainable Development Goal 12 (Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production) recognises the need to support developing countries in strengthening their technological capacity to enable more sustainable patterns of consumption, to promote sustainable public procurement practices, and to ensure that consumers have the relevant information and awareness for sustainable lifestyles. In response, this research evaluates the mobilisation and practice of sustainable consumption in the global South through an examination of systems of food provision and regulation, everyday consumer habits, and trends and fashions in food consumption. It draws on case study research in Brazil, China, and South Africa, where there is robust evidence of large and growing middle classes.

The research is essential to understand how sustainable food consumption is mobilised and practised in distinct global South contexts, how this might be affected during times of increasing political instability and social precarity, and how this relates to the wider context of global population growth and globalising consumerism. Pilot research in the case study countries suggests that digital technologies are increasingly interwoven into societies and food systems as follows: consumers share, receive information about, purchase and review food online; food retail companies optimise their distribution with the help of IT technology; and state procurement systems increasingly move online. Recognising these realities, the research provides an innovative investigation of the interconnectedness of online and offline spaces of sustainable food consumption in the global South.

2017-2018 Research Associate, Newcastle UniversityCorporate food retailers, meat supply chains and the responsibilities of tackling antimicrobial resistance, with Prof. Alex Hughes (PI), Dr Emma Roe, Prof. Neil Wrigley, Prof. Michelle Lowe and Prof. Bill Keevil (Co-Is):  Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has major global implications for human health, animal health, agriculture, and the economy. The 2016 O’Neill report identified the reduction of "the extensive and unnecessary use of antibiotics in agriculture" as one of four key interventions needed to tackle AMR, yet within the food industry antimicrobial drugs remain important and necessary tools to support farm animal health and welfare, and the safety of foodstuffs.

Most microbes are not harmful to human health, indeed many are necessary to digest food and for the continuation of life, but all microbes can share genetic material, including AMR, with neighbouring micro-organisms. This ability of microbes to adapt to antimicrobial drugs means that neither better prescribing nor the development of new drugs will be sufficient to stop the spread of AMR. The cycles of drug efficacy, resistance and obsolescence can, however, be slowed.  Slowing the spread of AMR in meat supply chains is not a straightforward problem of tackling over prescription, but a challenge to improve practices of animal welfare to limit the need for antimicrobials, and to change routines of hygiene, consumption and food preparation to reduce the transmission of resistance.

Funded by the ESRC and supported by the FSA and VMD, this project explores the role of retailers in navigating the global antimicrobial resistance challenge. Supermarket chains are a bridge between production and consumption and so are potentially well positioned not only to encourage the reduction of antimicrobial use in agriculture, but to monitor and minimise movement of antimicrobial resistance through food supply chains, and to raise consumer awareness of the shared challenges of antimicrobial resistance.

2016-2017 Research Assistant, University of Exeter. Feeding Exeter:  ESRC IAA Impact Cultivation Award project (Prof. Stewart Barr & Dr Rebecca Sandover).  This research engages a participatory approach to work alongside the emerging Exeter Food Network as the group develops its strategies and strengthens its communities for building a resilient food future for Exeter.  This project builds on relationships established during the organisation and delivery of a farm based food symposium for which I received ESRC student-collaboration funding to (with Dr Rebecca Sandover) bring together academics, food producers, food retailers and food activists in a collaborative process of agenda setting for food research.

2012-2016 PhD Candidate, University of Exeter. Fat Chance? Eating-well with margarine: My doctoral research offers a critical re-examination of consumer-consumed relations.  To this end I explore how margarine is framed and done in industry, in policy, and in the home.  I investigate who and what are entangled with the stuff of margarine and why margarine is known and done the way it is, so as to unpack how such mundane knowledges and practices are shaped by and shape the ways it appears sensible or possible for human and nonhuman communities to live together.  I analyse who and what slips between framings of the stuff of margarine, and scrutinise the tensions and translations convoked when these gaps are smoothed over in everyday practices and norms, adding to understandings of how more information can work against desired policy outcomes. The research draws on an innovative methodology, which explores 'playing with our food' as a refrain that, through repetition and difference, builds resilient other ways of knowing, framing and practicing margarine relations. The 'what if?' of play facilitates twists and loosenings of habitual practices, creating space for imaginative interludes where it is possible to experiment with what is, and what might be. By focusing on the stuff of margarine, my thesis moves beyond existing accounts of consumer choice and industry responsibility to carve out an original theoretical focus which explores the role of the mundane event in the rehearsal of a more-than human ethics of care.  This project was funded by the ESRC and supervised by Prof. Ian Cook & Prof. Steve Hinchliffe.

Teaching

I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy with a particular interest in creative, collaborative and participatory methods. In addition to planning and delivering sessions both in the classroom and in the field, and at all stages from first year undergraduate through to masters level, my teaching has included convening and facilitating training sessions for PhD researchers.

Publications