Date

2018

Department or Program

Sociology

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Markella Rutherford

Abstract

Eating disorder knowledge is dominated by a homogenous perspective largely devoid of racial or cultural diversity. Dialogues about what it means to be a woman and what it means to have an eating disorder have historically been singularly situated within the bodies of white women. These predominantly white narratives have served as the foundation for research studies on eating disorders which have shaped knowledge related to eating disorder diagnosis and treatment. By comparing the narratives of black (n=20), white (n=23), and Latina (n=15) women with eating disorders as well as incorporating perspectives from fifteen clinicians who treat eating disorders, this thesis investigates how the diagnosis and treatment of eating disorders is reflective of white-dominated epistemological eating disorder frameworks which further marginalize women of color with eating disorders who interact with institutions of psychology and medicine. Eating disorder diagnostic criteria, as defined by psychological and medical expertise, are evaluated and compared to details shared by women about their eating disorder experiences. New knowledges about eating disorders according to the words of Latina and black women are proposed, integrating women’s individual psychological experiences into the collective social and cultural experiences that inform women of color’s eating disorders. The relationship between heterogeneous eating disorder knowledge and treatment accessibility is also discussed. This thesis concludes that in order for black and Latina women to access more equitable eating disorder diagnosis and treatment, the impact that collective social marginalization has on individual bodies must be integrated into clinical and academic knowledge related to eating disorders.

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