LSA Funded Projects: Dr. Paula Danby and Dr. Rebecca Finkel

Over the past 12 months we have funded a range of activities through the research and enterprise grant scheme. Here is a summary of two of the ongoing projects from Dr. Paula Danby and Dr. Rebecca Finkel both from Queen Margaret’s University.

Dr. Paula Danby: 
‘A comparative Study Examining Complementary Approaches towards Human-Equine Mutual Wellbeing through Animal-Assisted Therapy and Relational Leisure Encounters’

This post-humanist approach to the  research will provide a crucial investigation into diverse leisure environments and approaches employed to address health and wellbeing through animal-assisted therapy. A robust examination of blurred boundaries and distinctions between therapeutic and recreational interspecies encounters for mutual wellbeing will be evaluated to critically explore and reconceptualize human-equine relations during animal-assisted therapy.

This study will provide a baseline to improve and share best practice for strengthening the provision of animal-assisted therapy by advancing knowledge through innovative approaches within the leisure and recreational landscape and local organisations. This research will critically assess multispecies leisure engagement for reciprocal wellbeing and will generate new perspectives on human-animal relational encounters within contemporary society and consequently, promote interest and avocation in equine leisure pursuits.

Dr. Rebecca Finkel:
Gastronomic Leisure as Cultural Activism: Case study of Basque Image and Identity


As Congdon (2015, 94) suggests, “If we want to understand a nationalist movement, there can be few better places than a market.” This also can be applied to food festivals and other gastronomic leisure activities. This research examines spaces in the landscape of Basque food culture which also gain further cultural capital as centres of national identity construction. Contextualised within the overarching concepts of regional food as outlined by Kuznesof et al. (1997), this research focuses to some extent on the work of Burnett (2004), who suggests that food is circumscribed by a particular iconography and ideological reference and examines how particular products are linked to a local identity. This identity, she argues, has connections with tradition and heritage.

The Basque region already has a distinct food identity and food-based culture driving the leisure activities of local communities. The acts of participating in collective leisure surrounding traditional culinary practices (e.g. pintxosand siderias) can be considered to be symbolically and politically important, as it is linked to a distinct Basque national identity that is separate from a more holistic Spanish identity. It is argued that food from this region is viewed as representative of a living Basque heritage and is shared with the rest of the world as such. Relationships created through food, especially socialisation surrounding Basque cuisine, can be seen as a political acts. This research examines how gastronomic leisure activities are linked to cultural activism in helping/hindering the shaping of a distinct Basque identity and image, especially given inter-generational participation in such events. Methodological approaches employ qualitative research methods, such as semi-structured interviews and ethnographic visual and participant observation methods, to examine the perspectives of relevant stakeholders related to Basque identity formation and potential activism. Food festivals and other gastronomic leisure activities can act as a focus for meaningful identity (re-)construction internally as well as express distinct cultural images externally because they have the potential to increase cultural capital by forging connections between people, increasing civic pride, making links to heritage, and providing a commonality of experience.


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