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Re:living the body mass index: How A Lacanian autoethnography can inform public health practice

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In this paper, I demonstrate how autoethnography can be utilized as a methodology to conduct public health research. My argument is structured around an application of Jacques Lacan’s psychoanalytic theory which I see as supporting and extending a critical understanding of the so-called obesity epidemic and related issues. I argue that the body mass index (BMI) measure has achieved an unconscious position as a ‘Sovereign Good’ and, as such, provides the moral and ethical mechanism through which state-sanctioned science, via the wider weight-loss industry, prescribes people into a state of weight anxiety. I conclude that public health practitioners who find themselves promoting weight loss towards the ‘healthy’ range of the BMI are in an unethical position, one that should be entirely rejected. Instead I point to the ethics of desire as an alternative position that might help public health practitioners who are interested in actually improving public health.
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Keywords: Lacan; Sovereign Good; autoethnography; body mass index; obesity epidemic; psychoanalysis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Management, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Publication date: August 8, 2015

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