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|Women, body and eating : a social representational study in British and Tobagonian cultural contexts
|Dorrer, Nike Cornelia
|University of Stirling
|In this thesis I explore women's engagement with body, weight and eating from a socio-cultural perspective. I discuss the limitations of current research on body dissatisfaction and propose that women's negative appraisal of their body needs to be understood as an active engagement with their social context. Research that focuses on the interaction of ethnic/cultural differences and body dissatisfaction seeks to clarify the interrelationship between femininity, gender and culture and suggests that women's dissatisfaction with their body is linked to levels of global Westernisation. My criticism of this research is that it conceptualises culture and social knowledge in a simplistic way. I propose social representations theory and the principles of dialogicality as an alternative research paradigm and argue that such an approach can overcome the dichotomy of individual and social, inner and outer. In order to explore the interaction of the subjective with the social in relation to the negative and positive appraisal of the body an interview study was conducted in two distinct cultural contexts. In depth interviews were conducted with 14 women in the UK and 12 women in Tobago, WI. The thema recognition/disrespect was used as an interpretative frame. The results show that the meanings that were assigned to the body interlinked with socially enacted representations of self, other and femininity. While the thema recognition/disrespect could be seen to be problematised through contradictory conditions of worth in the UK, it was the notion of 'disrespect' in interrelation with representations of others that was foregrounded in women's reflections in Tobago. In both research locations women negotiated constraining or contradictory demands of femininity and 're-presented' themselves through the construction of alternative identities.
|Thesis or Dissertation
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