Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Program Name/Specialization

Media, Technology, and Culture


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Debra Langan

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor

Second Advisor

Dr. Lauren Eisler

Advisor Role

Committee Member

Third Advisor

Dr. Stacey Hannem

Advisor Role

Committee Member


In the West, and increasingly globally, individuals, particularly women, are fixated on weight loss, driven by the goal of achieving a culturally-desired, and aggressively marketed, "skinny" female physique. There are online forums where individuals refer to themselves or their eating disorders as "pro-ana" and "pro-mia". Individuals who post on these sites both align with, and challenge, what medical and mental health professionals define as serious mental health problems that result in severe, sometimes fatal, medical complications. This thesis specifically focuses on interactions with, and within, the pro-ana/mia culture on the social media websites Tumblr and YouTube. Over sixteen months, and guided by a feminist postmodern perspective, I immersed myself within a "grounded virtual liquid ethnography" that draws on contemporary methodologies that are suitable for the transitory and destabilized characteristics of blurred online and offline interactions. Through embracing ethnographic sensibilities and being open to marginalized perspectives, I present analyses that are attentive to nuanced meanings produced by others. These critical, sociological analyses alternatively theorize the motivations behind responses to pro-ana/mia communities. Through challenging the dominant responses of the medical model and similar societal discourses that pathologize pro-ana/mia supporters, I uncover serious implications for the socio-cultural, economic, physical and mental health of women and their communities. My analyses do not place blame on pro-ana/mia individual women. Instead of supporting the eradication of pro-ana/mia from online spaces, my findings support the importance of learning about how online environments develop and extend critical consciousness about eating-disordered ideologies, practices and solutions to these.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season