Embodying the culture of achievement: Culture between illness and perfection is a ‘thin line’ – obtaining the ideal female body as an act of achievement

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Abstract

In this article, we argue that certain behaviour connected to the attempt to attain contemporary female body ideals in Denmark can be understood as an act of achievement and, thus, as an embodiment of the culture of achievement, as it is characterised in Præstationssamfundet, written by the Danish sociologist Anders Petersen (2016) Hans Reitzels Forlag. Arguing from cultural psychological and sociological standpoints, this article examines how the human body functions as a mediational tool in different ways from which the individual communicates both moral and aesthetic sociocultural ideals and values. Complex processes of embodiment, we argue, can be described with different levels of internalisation, externalisation and materialisation, where the body functions as a central mediator. Analysing the findings from a qualitative experimental study on contemporary body ideals carried out by the Danish psychologists Josefine Dilling and Maja Trillingsgaard, this article seeks to anchor such theoretical claims in central empirical findings. The main conclusions from the study are used to structure the article and build arguments on how expectations and ideals expressed in an achievement society become embodied.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCulture & Psychology
ISSN1354-067X
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Apr 2021

Keywords

  • Body ideals
  • cultural pscyhology
  • culture of achievement
  • discourses
  • disordered eating
  • embodiment
  • qualitative experiments
  • social representation theory

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