Preferred Name

Katie Shedden

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Date of Graduation

Spring 2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


School of Communication Studies


Melissa Alemán

Michael Broderick

Jennifer Coffman


My graduate thesis project entitled “(In)visibility and Meaning in Food Labor: A Feminist Autoethnography” illuminates the gendered experiences of female food laborers and how women make meaning through their labor in this context. Gendered experiences do not stand apart from classed and raced identities, which I also reflexively analyze throughout this thesis. Women working within the food chain have been historically marginalized and made invisible, though they make up an increasingly significant portion of this workforce, a trend known as the “feminization of agriculture.” The discussion of the work that women do when discussing food in the academic literature also focuses largely on nurturing and feeding tasks, which does not discuss the wide range of food work that women do such as picking, processing, distributing, and serving. Throughout my thesis, I utilize autoethnographic methods supplemented with ethnographic interviewing to analyze my own experiences as a female food laborer. Specifically, I discuss experiences growing up on an alpaca farm in rural Virginia, my employment as a cashier at Grocer’s Market, as a voluntary laborer with the International Organic Farming program, and my experiences working alongside female farm owners in Ireland and Virginia. The narratives emerged through the writing process and are organized according to the following themes: vulnerable & gendered labor, what we do to make do, women’s bodies and work, and women mentoring women.



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