31 August, 2011

Imagining Anorexia

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This article focuses on ‘pro-ana’ websites, i.e., on-line communities which promote anorexia as a desirable lifestyle. Analysing both the language and visual imagery used by the ‘pro-ana-nation’, I explore the ways in which pro-anorectics make sense of their disorder and construct their on-line pro-ana identity. Drawing on critical discourse analysis, I argue that pro-ana rhetoric borrows elements from other discourses on the disorder, but reformulates, and sometimes parodically rearticulates them, to fit the pro-ana goals. These discourses include normative cultural constructions of female beauty, feminist discourses on ‘body ownership’, medicalised frames on food, health, obesity and mental illness, and religious discourses of asceticism and purification. Through adopting, subverting and rearticulating these competing frames in line with their own experiences of eating disorders, a pro-ana sense of self is reflexively constructed in the pages of these websites. As a counter-culture, however, the pro-ana-nation is both limited and internally inconsistent, I shall argue, since despite ostensibly rejecting many aspects of mainstream society, pro-ana rhetoric nevertheless remains fundamentally rooted in both the discourses and practices of the mainstream, ‘non-ana’ world.