Maxine Ali

Thesis title:

Women’s discursive performances of wellness on social media: a feminist critical discourse analysis


My doctoral research examines constructions of feminine identity within women’s discursive performances of wellness on Instagram. Wellness can be understood as a contemporary health culture, encompassing a collection of lifestyle beliefs and practices to promote mind and body purification and optimisation. Both as producers and consumers, women are more likely than men to engage with wellness, often taking to social media to enact performances of ‘lifestyle correctness’ online. At the time of writing, 43.2 million posts on Instagram appear under the hashtag ‘wellness,’ signposting content that enacts a visual documentation of women’s ‘wellness journeys.’ Utilising critical discourse analysis (CDA) through the lens of feminist theory (Fairclough et al, 2011; Lazar 2005), this research aims to understand and elucidate the ways through which wellness discourses produce an idealised ‘healthy’ feminine identity, and how this relates to and reinforces the ideological gendering of health and body consciousness. Findings will offer insight into the socio-political nature of women’s health anxieties and their relationship to wider structures of gender-based oppression.

My research considers the questions:

1) How do women’s discursive performances of wellness on Instagram echo and amplify gender-based scripts of lifestyle correctness and body monitoring?

SQ1) In what ways do women’s discursive performances of wellness on Instagram reflect and reinforce existing assumptions of ‘correct’ femininity as an embodiment of purity and morality? Do they flout this assumption in any way? If so, how?

SQ2) What are the primary discourses that underscore women’s expressions of health anxiety and motivations for engaging with wellness. How might these relate to the ideological gendering of health consciousness?

First supervisor:

Alexandra Georgakopoulou-Nunes


7- Lingusitics, Media & Culture



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