Catching up with... Dr. Michelle Phillipov

Dr. Michelle Phillipov from the University of Tasmania has been welcomed to ERMeCC in February for a short research position. “It’s been a really good opportunity to come here and experience a different institutional context and a stimulating environment to do my work.”

Michelle’s research, funded by the ARC, focuses on new relationships that are emerging between the media industries and the food industries. “These relationships are a result of an intensified media focus on food that we’re seeing across the Anglophone West, but particularly intensely in Australia.”

“In Australia, television cooking shows break rating records, and have significant impacts on food industry trends. This is creating new opportunities for new types of relationships that we haven’t seen before. I’m looking at the new representational strategies, the professional networks, and the industry relationships that are emerging out of food television in particular.”

From Death Metal to Food Politics

Michelle’s research activities have not always been focused in the area of food media. Motivated by her interest in cultural controversy and extreme cultures, Michelle did her PhD on Death Metal and wrote Death Metal and Music Criticism: Analysis at the Limits. Here, she looked at different kinds of representational strategies associated with the idea of the extreme.

From there, extreme food started peaking her interest. “I started looking at the advertising around extreme fast food burgers, representations of butter in television cooking shows and the kinds of resistances to public health nutrition that were emerging in those representations. In doing that work, I noticed a lot of things like the particular kinds of sponsorship arrangements that you’re seeing on cooking shows. I found that the line between paid promotional advertising and television program content was quite blurred. I started to think more closely about particular media and food industry relationships… and it sort of went from there.”

Coming up: ERMeCC Lunch Seminar

On March 10, Michelle will be presenting her paper The New Politics of Food and the Australia Media during the ERMeCC Lunch Seminar. “It’s about the supermarket sponsorship of television cooking shows. It’s a case study of an extremely popular Australian show called My Kitchen Rules. The show is sponsored by Coles, one of two major supermarkets in Australia. With an unusually concentrated supermarket sector, a range of brand management issues arise for them that they need to address. I’m looking at supermarket sponsorship in cooking shows as one way of getting positive brand messages out to the market.”

Other exciting research activities

Michelle is writing a book called Media and Food Industries: The New Politics of Food with Palgrave Macmillan, which focuses on media and food industry relationships across both the artisan and mainstream sectors and includes interviews with food producers, media producers, contestants from cooking shows and analysis of those programs.

Furthermore, Michelle is organizing a conference at the University of Tasmania from 30 June-1 July 2016. With two keynote speakers on board, the conference will focus on “the ways food politics and ideas about political dimensions of food have become mainstreamed through not just food media, but a whole lot of other popular cultural texts and practices.”

Next year, Michelle will return to teaching at the University of Tasmania as Senior Lecturer in Journalism, Media and Communications. Her units cover a fairly broad spectrum of media and culture studies, such as Media Texts and Industries, Media Cultures, and Media and Music.

In the meantime, a couple of articles from her fellowship project are coming out, including a longer version of the Lunch Seminar paper in Agriculture and Human Values and an article in Media International Australia. “But besides that, this year is about finishing the book.”