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A discourse analysis of interactions from an online pro-anorexia forum

Ascari, Manuela (2013) A discourse analysis of interactions from an online pro-anorexia forum. Master of Arts thesis, Dublin City University.

My research takes a look at the phenomenon of pro-anorexia websites by focusing on conversations from a public pro-anorexia forum. There is pressure on health experts and Internet hosts to oppose this controversial phenomenon because of the concern, shared by experts and lay people alike, that these websites encourage eating disorders and provide a dysfunctional, anti-recovery type of social support to those who are struggling with this problem. However, to conceive of these online spaces as yet another manifestation of a psychopathology is to overshadow the socio-cultural context in which the phenomenon has emerged, which includes: the silencing of the experiences of eating disordered individuals and their stigmatization as irrational or mentally disturbed; the dynamics of socialization and community-building in an increasingly online world; and, crucially, the fact that, in Western societies, a concern with dieting and thinness is not exclusive to women with an eating disorder, but has become increasingly widespread and accepted for and among all women. My dissertation deals with these aspects by exploring constructions that the members of a proanorexia forum produce to discuss their experiences around the body and eating disorders. The study draws on discourse-based and feminist sources that tend to characterise pro-anorexia websites as places of self-expression and connection and that are critical of theories of eating disorders that separate these experiences from their historical context. Insights are yielded into two main aspects: the use of discursive constructions of ‘anorexia’ and ‘bulimia’ in the constitution of the forum community under investigation; and the use of discursive constructions of the body to establish particular relationships of power and powerlessness between the individual and her body. The findings are relevant vis-à-vis contemporary biomedical discourses on health and weight loss and how these discourses are problematically implicated in the cultural normalization of thinness.
Item Type:Thesis (Master of Arts)
Date of Award:November 2013
Supervisor(s):Kenny, Dorothy and Ging, Debbie
Uncontrolled Keywords:eating disorders; pro-anorexia websites; internet research; discourse analysis
Subjects:Humanities > Culture
DCU Faculties and Centres:DCU Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Science > School of Communications
DCU Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Science > School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies
Use License:This item is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. View License
ID Code:18077
Deposited On:21 Nov 2013 14:40 by Dorothy Kenny . Last Modified 19 Jul 2018 14:59

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