Degree Granting Department
Diane Price Herndl
anorexia, epistemic violence, erasure, pro-ana, response-ability
This thesis argues that the recent erasure of digital pro-anorexia ("pro-ana") narratives by websites such as Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram represents an attempt to silence female self-starvers and reify the authority of medical associations to speak for female bodies. I draw parallels between these attempts and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's theory of epistemic violence, since the experiences of women are effectively discredited, through metaphors that render the thin body dangerous, to shore up professional medical authority. As an attempt to privilege the experiences of the self-starvers, I analyze one Tumblr blog with eating disorder content to listen to the letters users anonymously write to their bodies in contrast to narratives written by "recovered" self-starvers that are officially endorsed by the National Eating Disorder Association. Finally, I argue that the Internet provides us with the opportunity to foster response-able witnessing, for which Kelly Oliver has advocated. I extend Oliver's research to argue that we must foster response-ability for all attempts to bear witness. I suggest that creating response-able spaces where others might witness their different embodied experiences can enable female self-starvers to reclaim subjectivity that medicine has taken from them. In so doing, they might learn to become response-able to their eating disorders, and, eventually, their own bodies.
Scholar Commons Citation
Gay, Kristen Nicole, "Unbearable Weight, Unbearable Witness: The (Im)possibility of Witnessing Eating Disorders in Cyberspace" (2013). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.