Snacking practices in school: othering and deviance in a health-normative context

Hilje van der Horst, Stefan Wahlen*, Mirte Reimerink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Many public health interventions encourage healthy behaviours by strengthening health norms within schools or workplaces. Such health norms and health-normative contexts can also produce social hierarchies and forms of othering, including unhealthy ‘deviant’ behaviours. This article aims to better articulate how deviance is produced in a health normative school context. We approach the interplay between a health-oriented environment and deviance from a practice theoretical perspective, emphasising four different facets of this perspective. This paper is based on a case study in a school that has a strong orientation towards healthy eating, drawing on observations, focus group discussions with children, interviews and a survey (forty students, aged 10–11). We analyse how strong norms on healthy behaviour depend on the meticulous guarding of boundaries with deviant behaviours as well as, in some cases, associated ‘others’. The article thereby promotes a practice theoretical approach on deviance emphasising the mundane character of healthy eating in school. We contribute to the debate on deviance and norms as to better understand healthy eating practices by distinguishing four different facets of a practice theoretical approach: 1) practice as distinct entity 2) the performance of practice 3) practices in a nexus of multiple practices and 4) individuals as nodal points of practices. The results assist in critically reflecting on assumptions upon which many public health interventions are built as well as contributing to an understanding of normativity and deviance in mundane practices such as snacking in school.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Public Health
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jan 2020


  • deviance
  • snacking
  • Social practice

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