Convivial Quarantines: Cultivating Co-presence at a Distance

Nicholas Bascuñan-Wiley*, Michaela DeSoucey, Gary Alan Fine

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Sociology’s focus on sociality and co-presence has long oriented studies of commensality—the social dimension of eating together. This literature commonly prioritizes face-to-face interactions and takes physical proximity for granted. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 largely halted in-person gatherings and altered everyday foodways. Consequently, many people turned to digital commensality, cooking and eating together through video-call technology such as Zoom and FaceTime. We explore the implications of these new foodways and ask: has digital commensality helped cultivate co-presence amidst pandemic-induced physical separation? If so, how? To address these questions, we analyze two forms of qualitative data collected by the first author: interviews with individuals who cooked and ate together at a distance since March 2020 and digital ethnography during different groups’ online food events (e.g., happy hours, dinners, holiday gatherings, and birthday celebrations). Digital commensality helps foster a sense of co-presence and social connectedness at a distance. Specifically, participants use three temporally oriented strategies to create or maintain co-presence: they draw on pre-pandemic pasts and reinvent culinary traditions to meet new circumstances; they creatively adapt novel digital foodways through online dining; and they actively imagine post-pandemic futures where physically proximate commensality is again possible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)371-392
Number of pages22
JournalQualitative Sociology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Co-presence
  • Commensality
  • Digital ethnography
  • Temporality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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