Professor Shirley Leitch: Affirmation, negation and ambiguity: The discursive practices of the food industry

Date & time

5–6.30pm 19 March 2015

Event series

Tonight Professor Shirley Leitch will give a guest presentation on her research into public communication about science in the food sector.


The food sector comprises a group of powerful, high profile players in our economic, political and cultural lives. In this seminar, Professor Leitch examines the food sector’s deployment of scientific research through an analysis of product-related claims. The goal is to better understand the discursive practices used by food sector organizations when they interpret and apply evidence from scientific research in their communication about specific products. A framework is proposed by categorising different combinations of claim form and content which draws extensively on the work of Elsbach (1994) in assuming that food claims - in the form of advertising, branding and labelling-  represent an organization’s attempt to both legitimise and promote their products (Davenport et al, 2014).


Davenport, S., Daellenbach, U., Leitch, S. & M. Elmes. (2014). Processing Food Claims:  The Stabilising Roles of Measurement and Strategic Ambiguity. ‟. 6th Process Research in Organization Studies Symposium, Rhodes.

Elsbach, K (1994). Managing organizational legitimacy in the Californian Cattle Industry: The construction and effectiveness of verbal accounts, Administrative Science Quarterly, 39, 57-88.


Professor Shirley Leitch is Dean and Professor of Communication in the College of Business and Economics at the Australian National University. Her research is focused on public discourse and change, including engagement and communication in relation to controversial science.  Her current projects include a book on Social Media, an ARC Discovery project on the communication strategies of the mining industry, and a CRC project on the gamification of learning.


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