Date of Award

2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Sociology

Abstract

This paper draws on empirical evidence collected from pro-anorexia websites and qualitative interviews with dieters to develop an analysis of the uses of medical and scientific expertise in processes of body- and self-fashioning. It builds on previous work by examining how `lay publics' refashion expertise in order to use it for new purposes, sometimes contradictory to the purposes of medicine itself. Four distinct groups are analyzed: Women diagnosed with anorexia; women diagnosed with EDNOS (Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified); dieters using traditional methods of caloric restricting; and dieters using a new method called Primal Dieting. Overall, respondents indicated an ambivalence toward medical and scientific expertise and the criteria used to evaluate expert discourses. Refashioning of expertise was conditional upon three different body/self strategies: 1) Moving oneself out of the discredited eating disorder diagnosis EDNOS; 2) Recreating the eating and living practices of `Paleolithic Man' through Primal Dieting; and 3) Creating moral boundaries around those who engage in body-work and diet practices and those who don't. While it has been suggested that lay practices and belief systems represent an epistemological challenge to expert knowledges (Epstein 2008), this analysis suggests that there is considerable overlap between frameworks of `truth-making' between the four groups and scientific medicine. This calls us to reexamine the relationship between the lay populace's engagement with expertise in the twenty-first century, understood here to be simultaneously empowering and disempowering, embracive of and resistant to medicalization, subversive and affirmative of cultural norms of the body

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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