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Title: Alice through the contemporary looking glass : a Foucauldian feminist study of older women's experiences of their self-transformation through bodily practices in a commercial weight-loss organisation
Author: McNamara, Barbara
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2012
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Deeply informed by both contemporary feminist theory and Michel Foucault's genealogical method and analytics of power work, this thesis is concerned with older women's experiences of their body self-transformation by locating its practice within a particular context-a commercial weight management setting. Based on six months of participant-observation and biographical interviews with 36 older female clients belonging to a commercial weight-loss organisation this thesis reports the results that argues that commercial weight-loss organisations appropriate and debase the askeses-practices of care of the self that Foucault theorised, increasing older women's capacities at the same time as they encourage participation in the ever tightening webs of power. The study found that Foucault's portrayal of the ways in which individuals are drawn into or pressurized to conform to expectations and normative constructs was demonstrated in the use of powerful and dominant discourses relating to aging and weight -loss dieting. Such discourses influenced older women's self-narratives and others expectations about their capabilities, behaviour and concerns. Here, there was an over-riding sense that the older women were discursively negated, and positioned as 'other', in relation to body management practices like weight-loss dieting, such that both the meanings that they attribute to their experiences of weight loss and the extent to which they could benefit from organisational resources, varied by their stage in the lifecourse. However, within these broader discursive categories I also found labyrinths of supportive discourses that were more enabling and attempted to reify these particular constructions for the older women. From this position and from the unfolding evidence I became convinced that older women as subjects of normalising disciplinary practices really are empowered at the same time that they are disempowered because other successes can follow their weight loss. Freedom is therefore not an impossibility for a normalised subject.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available