I'm applying for a PhD in Anthropology. My research focus is not so much on the biochemical and nutritional components as in the social components of the Paleo movement: questions from 'Can the world population be healthfully sustained on a paleo diet?' to 'How do followers use the Internet to modify their understanding of a paleo diet?' (It's a fascinating community we inhabit, more so when you take a step-back to consider the hundreds of people gazing at their computer screens in order to answer discussion topics like ['Hack my wife's vagina.'])1
What are the most relevant social questions to the Paleo community? If you were to read a book or article taking a holistic approach to the Paleo lifestyle, what are the questions you most want to see answered?
I think one of the most relevant social questions to the Paleo community (in the US) is, "How do we NOT become another elitist fad for skinny white people wearing goofy shoes?" (brilliant, thought-provoking blog post here.
What would 'Paleo' look like in poor or African American communities? What cultural or socio-economic obstacles would have to be overcome?
I think I might like to study that question too... :)
Maybe a broader look at some of the "side effects" of paleo, such as community supported agricultural, self sufficiancy (in the form of learning to cook/process food rather than relying on an industrial system). Child rearing choices within the paleo community? Good luck- interesting topic! personally, the things that bother me in this realm is the tendency for self absorbtion-- focusing too much on looks/ micros /macros/hypochondria, etc. One thing I really appreciate about MDA is his focus focus on having fun / building community / relaxing etc.
"What are the most relevant social questions to the Paleo community?"
Depends on what kind of tack you want to take with your studies. The nutrition/physiology stuff absolutely fascinates me, but I've also found myself quite taken with so many of the non-food aspects of this "movement," or whatever you want to call it.
This is why I like Mark Sisson so much -- he's one of the few prominent voices out there that talks about a lot of these lesser considered variables:
Sorry for the long answer. Just wanted to add some of the things that are outside the n-6/n-3 nitty gritty food stuff.
Your goal is to get into grad school, and you will have to negotiate the bulk your projects with your advisors for the forseeable future. A good way to disqualify yourself in the application process is to come off as someone who does not appear to have any room to negotiate and depart from their preconcieved notions - nobody wants that guy as an advisee.
I think it better to go into the application process looking like someone who has interest in a process or form of interaction and who thinks a particular group a good case study and has a rationale for that. I think the recency or the development of a paleo community would serve as justification enough as you are more likely able to observe the formation and negotiation of boundaries, etc.
It is largely semantic and procedural, but you have a career of dealing with the semantic and procedural BS of academia in order to continue doing the research you want to do.
Two final thoughts: 1) You may want to consider disciplines beyond anthropology depending upon where in that broad spectrum of potential topics you note above you find the majority of your interests to lie. Addressing issues such as the global sustainability of paleo for all seems a bit removed from the purview of anthropology. And 2) the questions that a community most want to see answered (your solicitation above) are not necessarily those that are best to base a research program upon, assuming that they are questions that can be answered. If nothing else, I think this lends to your appearing more a zealot than someone with an academic interest (read- unadvisable).
Yeah, I wouldn't mention "paleo" going into an anthropology program, unless you are prepared to discuss that word as it pertains to anthropology, not nutrition. Any academic program you look at is going to want you to be open to a wide range of ideas, not because what you want to study is inappropriate, but because you--right now--probably don't know enough to ask the really juicy questions. (Which, I guess, is why you are asking us? Eh, we don't know either.) Other fields that may get you to a point where you can ask some really juicy fun questions about social and cultural forces that shape nutrition/food policies and beliefs and how those forces interact with health care, science, industry, the environment, the economy, etc: global studies, agronomy, communication, American history, health policy, public policy, (food/agricultural) law. Heck, you could even study nutrition.
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