Applying anthropology to a post spin class ritual

My research seeks to use Mary Douglas’ understanding of purity and danger as a lens through which I which I will conduct visual content analysis of the use of the hashtags thinspiration, fitspiration and clean eating. As such, my preliminary reading has encompassed analyses of other theorists who have also applied Douglas’s work (and its incarnations) to concepts of the body and eating disordered behaviours. I’ve had a look at the current state of art in research into the way young women with eating disordered behaviours use social media and looked toward the methodologies employed to gain further understanding of the complex and at times disturbing messaging underlying these hashtags and their use.

My analysis will use the concept of Abjection in a similar way to Eliza Burke’s discussion of the link between disseminating imagery of thinspiration and the user’s personal feeling of distress. Burke never explicitly references Kristeva’s theory, but it appears to hover over her discussion of users posting images of distress online in a bid to represent their disgust at their bodies and the effects of self starvation.

  I intend to argue the act of creating or reposting such imagery is a ritualistic act helping to quell the sufferer’s own abject disgust at their hungry or needful body- similar to an act of privation discussed in Mary Douglas’s work. In the past few weeks I’ve gotten obsessed with Kristeva’s theory of Abjection, which is directly inspired by Douglas in Purity and Danger and has also been applied to analyses of eating disorders. It will be an important part of my research as I want to hypothesise at this stage that the pro anorexia blog user posts thinspiration imagery online to express their own abject disgust at their ‘fat’ or ‘needful’ bodies. Making their experience public in the form of a tumblr or instagram post means they participate in a form of separation or distancing from their own personal experience of their bodies (from which a feeling of abject disgust originates).

I’d like to argue that reposting or creating thinspiration imagery is an act of privation discussed in Mary Douglas’s work, an attempt to restore order and boundaries between the self/the user and feelings of abject disgust at their own bodies.

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