The phenomenon of pro-anorexia (‘pro-ana’) communities has attracted extensive academic attention over the last 15 years, with feminist scholars fascinated by the political complexities of such cultures. But the internet has also enabled a range of eating disorder recovery cultures to emerge - whether organised around blogs, Facebook, Instagram or YouTube – and such spaces have been largely ignored by feminist scholarship which has fetishized the apparently more resistant and controversial discourses of pro-ana. As such, this article explores a set of videos posted on YouTube under the title of ‘My anorexia story’ which present narratives of recovery, or efforts to recover, from anorexia. Primarily produced by white, Western, teenage girls, these videos are effectively slide shows made up of written text and photographs, with selfies of the body sitting at their core. The conceptual and political significance of self-representation has been seen as central to the construction of subjectivity within the digital media landscape, with particular attention paid to the ways in which such practices compare, speak back to, or challenge the existing representational discourses of ‘dominant’ media and wider relations of social power. In this regard, this article explores questions of agency in gendered self-representation, examining what kinds of self-narratives the girls are producing about anorexia. In doing so, it examines how the stories seek to ‘author’ and regulate the meanings of the anorexic body; how these constructions intersect with dominant constructions of anorexia (such as those offered by medical discourse and the media); as well as the implications of the aesthetic strategies they employ. In considering how the narratives visualise, display and ‘expose’ the anorexic body, I draw upon a growing area of work which examines the selfie in relation discourses of surveillance, visibility and selfhood.
- Anorexia Nervosa