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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19067

Title: Living in the Shadow of an "Obesity Epidemic": The Discursive Construction of Boys and Their Bodies
Authors: Norman, Moss Edward
Advisor: MacNeill, Margaret
Department: Exercise Sciences
Keywords: fatness
obesity epidemic
boys
embodiment
masculinity
discursive construction
race
social class
Issue Date: 19-Feb-2010
Abstract: This dissertation is about boys and fatness. In it I explore the central discourses that shape young men’s (13-15 years) experiences of their bodies, particularly in relation to body size, shape, and fatness. A central objective is to listen, hear, and take seriously the embodied health rationalities of young men as they negotiate the multiple and contesting discourses that confront them in their daily lives. I employ a feminist poststructural lens to account for the nuanced, alternative, and contextually specific ways young men think about and do health. Data collection was divided into three phases (non-participant observation, photo(focus) groups, and interviews) and was implemented at two Toronto area sites, including an exclusive private school and a publicly funded parks and recreation community centre. I demonstrate that there is not one way of experiencing fatness and masculinity, rather the young men’s constructions of fatness and health were fluid, shifting, contradictory and cross cut by other salient identity categories such as gender, race, ethnicity, social class, and age. Using Michel Foucault’s concept of governmentality, I show how obesity discourse provides a set of resources by which young men are able to construct themselves as autonomous, rational, neoliberal subjects, and how these subjectivities are differentially constituted depending on social and cultural positioning. I also reveal how differently raced and classed young men take up and embody normative ideals of the lean muscular male body through culturally appropriate masculine technologies of the self (i.e. sport and heterosexuality). The multiplicity of health and body discourses available to the young men gave rise to contested and ambivalent experiences and practices, such that dominant discourses were not always articulated in a straightforward and predictable manner, but were imbued with alternative and, in some cases, subversive meanings. To date, the social sciences have neglected to account for the relationship boys and men have with fatness discourses. By centering the analysis on the embodied experiences of diverse racialized and classed youth, this research demonstrates that weight and shape is more than a biomedical problem to be eradicated, but a discursively compelled embodiment that exists at the crossroads of the social, cultural, psychic, and biologic.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/19067
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Graduate Department of Exercise Sciences - Doctoral theses

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