Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Carolyn Ellis

Co-Major Professor

Frederick Steier


Community, Family, Food, Interaction, Social Capital, Third Places


This dissertation is an auto/ethnographic account, which examines food, close personal friendships, and community. The research combines autoethnography with ethnographic observations and personal/group interviews conducted within the Seminole Heights neighborhood of Tampa, Florida. The observations are of a weekly dinner event referred to by most attendees as Family Dinner. I am one of the founders of this event; the participants of this study are neighbors (or were at some point in time) as well as past and present attendees of the weekly dinner.

The purpose of this research is to illustrate how food can be a tool to build community. In the Seminole Heights neighborhood, food acts as a communicator/builder of community and produces (a) nourishment for close personal bonds, and (b) sustainment of social capital. The nourishment and sustainment are made possible through (c) interaction. While there are many works of literature that discuss the topics of food, bonds, social capital, and interaction, little has been written on how these aspects function synergistically to create community. Using literature that speaks to food, close personal bonds, social capital, and interactions, I examine how these key aspects integrate with the ideas of community and their relationship to community building. I specifically address how people form community around the sharing of food and social interactions. In order to do so, I explore the role food plays in nourishing this community and look at how people experience and participate in community through the sharing of food.

There are three areas comprising my research.

1. First, the observations describe the interactions of the community.

2. Secondly, the interviews give a sense of the weekly dinners from participants who still attend, who no longer live close enough to continue attending, and who have stopped attending for reasons other than their proximity to the neighborhood.

3. Lastly, the weaving of ethnography with autoethnography allows for a reflexive view of what these dinners mean, not only to myself, but also to those who participated in this research project. This study focuses on what constitutes community according to participants--their conceptions of community. In Addition, it illustrates the role food plays in nourishing community, and the participant's role in sustaining community.

Included in

Communication Commons