Cosima Werner joined Prof. Dr. Ulrike Gerhard's team as PhD student in 2015. She started her studies in 2007 with B.Sc. Geography, later combined with a second bachelor in Sociology. For her master's studies in cultural geography, her path continued then to the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. During a year abroad, she studied at the Minnesota State University and then traveled for an internship to Jakarta, Indonesia. In 2015, she completed her studies with her master's thesis on the variety of urban agriculture practices in Detroit. In her dissertation she will focus on the importance of liquor stores in American urban food deserts. Her scientific interests lie in the areas of food geography, urban geography and urban sociology as well as in the methodology of empirical social research.
Since 2010 Cosima Werner is part of the voluntary project "entgrenzt". entgrenzt is a online paper engaging with geographic contents giving students the chance to publish academic articles (peer-review). The current issue and further information can be found at entgrenzt.de
Food-practices and Spatial Constitutions of Convenience Stores in Impoverished US American Urban Neighborhoods
You are what you eat is a well-known phrase. Everyone eats, but everyone eats differently – different products, in various ways, differently prepared, and partly connected with customs. Food is seen as an expression of identity. These actions can be described as food-practices. However, which ascriptions to identity are hided in the practices if people seemingly consume mostly industrial processed food (convenient food) sold in convenience stores (also known as liquor stores or party stores): questions about which identity is attached to such habits have to be raised. Especially, poor urban neighborhoods in American metropolises are affected, where access to supermarkets is much worse than in the more prosperous districts. Here, an over-presence of convenience stores serving mainly snacks, convenience food, tobacco and liquor can be diagnosed. Consequently, convenience stores bear a high importance in the function as food contributor.
These aspects open up a twofold spatial dimension: on the one hand, it relates to the structural supply of food in these neighborhoods and, thus, emphasizes convenience stores as the dominant food provider. On the other hand, the meaning by people who choose such stores as a daily reference location include a practice of space constitutions: with doing so, they expand the function of food provider for further senses.
In addition, the mentioned food system with a lack of supermarkets and the over-presence of convenience stores in African American neighborhoods tracts a high attention. This imbalance correlates not only with socio-economic indicators, but also with ethnicity. By considering intersectionality, it is possible to consider the dimensions of inequalities (in regard to race, class, and gender).
In this respect, the dissertation searches for the connection of food practices with practices of spatial constitutions of convenience stores. Space constitutions are understood as a process of the connection of actions by subjects; hence, it follows the praxeological theory. Practices are actions that are embedded a temporal and spatial context. They include historical and cultural dimensions, thus, the social itself, and they are framed by regulations and norms.
The project is created in manner of an ethnographic research design. It includes beside the methods of intense observations in different stores in Detroit’s Eastside and Chicago’s Southside various forms of interviews as well as participation in and self-testing of food practices. Questions come to mind such as: What kind of product is bought at what time and in which settings (spatial and temporal) are these consumed? What practices do consumers associate with buying convenience food? To what extent are supermarkets in American underserved neighborhoods linked to these practices? Which other functions serve the convenience store to underserved neighborhood (e.g. meeting point for the
Jetneys, an informal taxi system in Detroit; the store owner as credit grantor, lottery, and many more). These questions go beyond the aspect of food-practices. They are also dedicated to the significance of convenience stores as social spaces in African American neighborhoods.
With these questions in mind, theories about social inequalities in American inner-city neighborhoods in focus on African Americans are analyzed with a specific perspective on the everyday life of African Americans. Herewith, I add aspects to reflected and critical urban studies.
Teachingsummer semester 2017:
Food & the City im Blickwinkel qualitativer Sozialforschung
Einführung in die Humangeographie
North American Cities
Methoden ethnographischer Forschung im Kontext urbaner Prozesse in Heidelberg(together with Kerstin Fröhlich)
Publications & Talks
Werner, C. (2017): Urban Gardening – Fastfood-Kioske und Stereotypen in der Beziehung von weißen und afro-amerikanischen Communities in den USA, Internationale Gespräche im Museum, Fürth, 5./6.5-2017 siehe dazu auch Werner, C. (2017):
Die wollen kein Gemüse – Über den Kampf um gesundes Essen in amerikanischen Armutsquartieren: In: Frauen in der Einen Welt; Museumsband
ausgekocht, zu den Internationalen Gesprächen im Museum, S. 94-97.
Werner, C. (2017):
The Inconvenience of Convenience Stores, Association of American Geographers, Boston 5.-9.4.2017
Werner, C. (2017): Die Moral der Geschichte – Essen unter Beschuss in
amerikanischen Ghettos, Tagung Neue Kulturgeographie, Bayreuth, 26.-28.1.2017.
Werner, C. (2016): Clashes in Detroits Szene der Urbanen Landwirtschaft. Tagung: Interdisziplinäres Arbeiten, München, 7./8.4.2016.
Werner, C. (2015): The Variety of Urban Farming Practices - A Case Study from Detroit (unpublished master's thesis, M.A. Kulturgeographie). Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg.
Werner, C. (2015): Detroit und urbane Gärten als… – Eine Kritik an der Homogenität der Praxis urbanen Gärtnerns. Raum is(s)t Nahrung – Ein Workshop zu Geographien der Nahrung und Ernährung. Bayreuth. 19.06.2015.
Werner, C. (2014): Green Open Spaces in Indonesian Cities: Schisms between Law and Practice. In: Pacific Geographies, 41, pp. 26 –31.
Dörfler, T. / Werner, C. (2012): Relationale Raum- und Milieuforschung. Ein Beitrag zur sozialwissenschaftlichen Methodologie. Nachwuchstreffen: Stadt – Raum – Architektur. Weimar. 30.03.2012.
Dörfler, T. / Werner C. (2011): Zur Rekonstruktion suburbaner und urbaner Lebenswelten anhand Bourdieus Habituskonzept und Martina Löws Raumsoziologie. Geographien der (feinen) Unterschiede. Bonn, 04.11.2011.
Werner, C. (2011): Habitus im Relationalen Raum am Beispiel von Suburbia und Großstadt (unpublished bachelor's thesis, B.A. Soziologie). Universität Göttingen.
Dörfler, T. / Werner, C. (2011): Urbane Gärten – zwischen Fiktion und Realität. Nachwuchstreffen: Stadt – Raum – Architektur. Göttingen. 11./12.03.2011.
Werner, C. (2011): Außerlandwirtschaftliche Beschäftigung im ländlichen Raum Vietnams (unpublished bachelor's thesis, B.Sc. Geographie). Universität Göttingen.
Werner, C. (2011): Grüner Daumen gegen graue Stadt – urbane Gärten und urbane Landwirtschaft. In: entgrenzt 2/2011, pp. 26–36.