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


Ascari, Manuela;

Institution: Dublin City University. School of Communications
Dublin City University. School of Applied Language and Intercultural Studies
Subject Keywords: Culture; eating disorders; pro-anorexia websites; internet research; discourse analysis;

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.



Suggested citation:

Ascari, Manuela; . () A discourse analysis of interactions from an online pro-anorexia forum [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 25th June 2019].


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