Shaping the Family; Anti-Obesity Discourses and Family Life
MacAllister, Louise Karen
Date: 6 June 2016
University of Exeter
PhD in Human Geography
This thesis examines the effects of anti-obesity discourses on parenting practices. While academics have paid attention to the political dimensions of anti-obesity policy and related discourses (for example Colls and Evans, 2009, Evans, 2006, 2010, McPhail, 2009, Rawlins, 2009), and others have considered the experiences of feeding and ...
This thesis examines the effects of anti-obesity discourses on parenting practices. While academics have paid attention to the political dimensions of anti-obesity policy and related discourses (for example Colls and Evans, 2009, Evans, 2006, 2010, McPhail, 2009, Rawlins, 2009), and others have considered the experiences of feeding and caring for families (for example Curtis and Fisher, 2007, DeVault, 1991 Warin et al, 2008, Valentine, 1999), the way in which anti-obesity policies become enrolled in, and possibly contested through, parenting practices remains largely uncovered. In response to this, the thesis explores the ways in which these anti-obesity policies and discourses are brought into family life, lived, experienced, and made meaningful, contributing to critical obesity geographies and broader literature on bodies, parenting, care, and consumption. The thesis draws on research interviews and focus groups with parents, in which accounts of parenting practices and understandings around body size were explored in light of contemporary UK anti-obesity discourse. Using this research to explore the everyday enaction of parenting knowledges around body size, these parenting enactions are investigated alongside the governance of body size and parenting, developing an account of the ways in which we can see the aims of the state enacted in everyday practices of care (Dyck et al, 2007). By paying attention to everyday practices, this thesis argues that anti-obesity discourse emerges not only through top-down practices of governance, but through mundane and personal relationships of care and engagement with bodies, food, and fat. However, caring practices are demonstrated as existing in multiplicity and the excesses of everyday life in relation to parenting and body size are given space in the thesis to challenge narrow accounts of what it means to be a ‘good’ parent or have a ‘good’ body size; it is argued that we need to take seriously the situated lay knowledges that are developed through everyday practices of care. The thesis contends that such notions of ‘good’ parenting, bodies, and size are enacted through anti-obesity discourse as a particular classed discourse of parenting knowledge and body size, which furthermore, reinforce gendered versions of bodies, parenting, and everyday life.
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