Ethical Dilemmas and Digital Subcultures: Silencing Self-Starvers as Epistemic Violence

Kristen Gay

Abstract: This article argues that two non-profit national eating disorder advocacy groups, the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) and the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD), play an integral role in censoring pro-anorexia (pro-ana) subculture on social media platforms. This article adds to the ongoing debate surrounding the censorship of pro-ana discourse by interrogating the erasure of digital forums due to fears that eating disorders are communicable through narratives written predominately by young women. In response to these ostensibly infectious narratives, the advocacy groups institute guidelines for crafting a singular recovery narrative that might be “useful” for others, eschewing much of the research pertaining to eating disorder treatment and recovery and the lived experiences of self-starving women. As I will demonstrate, viewing this erasure through the lens of epistemic violence reveals that a social discomfort with pro-ana content may speak to a general unwillingness to confront structural violence that influences some women to engage in self-starvation.

Keywords: epistemic violence, eating disorders, recovery, illness narratives, rhetoric


Gay, Kristen. "Ethical Dilemmas and Digital Subcultures: Silencing Self-Starvers as Epistemic Violence." Peitho 19.2 (2017): 321-44.