Understanding lived experiences of food insecurity through a paraliminality lens

Caroline Moraes, Morven G. McEachern, Andrea Gibbons, Lisa Scullion

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This article examines lived experiences of food insecurity in the United Kingdom as a liminal phenomenon. Our research is set within the context of austerity measures, welfare reform and the precarity experienced by increasing numbers of individuals. Drawing on original qualitative data, we highlight diverse food insecurity experiences as transitional, oscillating between phases of everyday food access to requiring supplementary food, which are both empowering and reinforcing of food insecurity. We make three original contributions to existing research on food insecurity. First, we expand the scope of empirical research by conceptualising food insecurity as liminal. Second, we illuminate shared social processes and practices that intersect individual agency and structure, co-constructing people’s experiences of food insecurity. Third, we extend liminality theory by conceptualising paraliminality, a hybrid of liminal and liminoid phenomena that co-generates a persistent liminal state. Finally, we highlight policy implications that go beyond short-term emergency food access measures.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1169-1190
Number of pages22
Issue number6
Early online date30 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship and/or publication of this article: this research project was funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grants 2017-18 Round Scheme.

Funding Information:
We would like to thank our research participants for taking part in this project and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback. We also thank the British Academy for their financial support.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • austerity
  • food insecurity
  • food poverty
  • liminality
  • liminoid
  • paraliminality
  • poverty
  • precarity
  • qualitative research
  • supplementary food

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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