• A “WomEsanist” Theory: Autoethnography of Triads of Familial Generations of Nigerian Esan Women’s Perceptions of Body Size and Image

      Rees, Emma; Ugege, Elsie O. (University of Chester, 2021-06)
      I consider the under-theorised genre of less powerful cultures, like my Esan culture, as a site for the subversion of dominant discourses. Espousing a novel feminist theoretical framework – “WomEsanism”, in combination with autoethnographic research methodology, I aim to advance the understanding of Nigerian Esan women’s constructions of ideal body size and image while reflecting on my own status as an Esan woman. My research trajectory was constantly characterised by self-interrogation and self-analysis, while relating my personal experience to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings articulated by other Esan women participants of my study. I recruited 16 sets of triads of familial generations of Esan women from all five local government areas of Esanland. A triadic family set comprised of daughter, mother, and grandmother. The total number of individual participants were 48. I used the snowballing sampling technique to locate families that met my inclusion criteria. I collected data from myself through introspection and from my participants via one-to-one in-depth interview using semi-structured questions, and real-life observations. Then, I conducted a thematic analysis on all data types I collected. “Being beyond body in bodies” emerged as my overarching interpretation of my findings. Two complementary but inter-related themes supported the articulation of this interpretation and are: “being beyond body” and “being in bodies”. “Being beyond body” was expressed through three analytical sub-themes namely, “abilities”; “circumstance”; and “essence”. Esan women’s abilities in terms of body responsiveness, connectedness to body, and comfort in body, influence their innate image that transcends corporeal representations. In addition, they expressed their innate beliefs of how life circumstances, like nature events and socio-economic events, rationalise their views of being beyond body. Still, they derived an innate essence from both spirituality, mostly demonstrated through religion; and being human. “Being in bodies” echoed the body as a social phenomenon described as “slim”, “average” and “fat” by my participants. These are socially-fluid categorisations of body size. Furthermore, four analytical sub-themes created contexts for understanding these body sizes and are: “nourishment and youthfulness”; “health and wellbeing”; “attractiveness”; and “respect and personality”. Together, these cultural perceptions of body size and image by my participants are embedded in the intersections of the multiple social spaces which they occupy. I conclude that my study is beneficial to the academic discipline of Public Health for understanding the connections between socio-political locations, resultant cultures, and body image. This research was also an opportunity for me to gain skills relevant for my learning how to learn about the diverse world via discourses of gender constructs; culture and bodies; politics of knowledge; sociology of health; and the autoethnographic research methodology as a critical social research approach.