A discourse analysis of pro-anorexia webstie

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Anorexia has the longest duration (5-7 years) of any Eating Disorders (Crow, Mitchell, Roerig, & Steffen, 2009) and the highest mortality rate (≥10%) among all psychological illness (Arcelus, Mitchell, Wales, & Nielsen, 2011). The person finds himself or herself unable to stop because it has become one’s identity. Recovery is seen as a process of drawing upon alternative positions to the anorexic voice and finding the “authentic” self (Weaver, Wuest, & Ciliska 2005). In recent years, pro - anorexia websites have emerged over the Internet. These websites have been criticised by health professionals for glamorising anorexia as a lifestyle choice, promoting unhealthy behaviours and normalizing, validating and reinforcing the person’s anorexic identity (Gavin, Rodham, & Poyer, 2008). Influenced by post - structuralist feminist theoretical framework, the present study employs Foucauldian discourse analysis as an analytic technique and examines the texts on the pro - anorexia website, the discursive constructions of anorexia and the (anorexic) body. The analysis revealed that there is no “authentic” self to be found. B y challenging or supporting multiple discourses, pro - anorexia users form positive subjectivities. The findings of this research also highlighted the repeated utilization of “pathologized” categories to claim and declaim the anorexic identity, to empower themselves and resist socio - cultural control. Paying attention to the socio - culturally specific discursive context in which anorexia arises and the potential benefit of pro - anorexia websites for health professionals, it allows more effective therapeutic interventions for those experiencing anorexia.

Includes bibliographical references.