Ambivalent effects of modernity on the body size conceptions in Senegal
Emmanuel Cohen (CNRS)
Paper short abstract:
In the context of acculturation in Senegal caused by urbanization, while youth assimilate the modern body norms resulting in a stigmatization of fatness, most of aged women want to gain a massive overweight indicating a good integration to the urban sociocultural model of "Progress".
Paper long abstract:
The Senegalese lifestyle mutation by an urbanization process associated with the combined effects of demographic, nutritional and epidemiologic transitions, has consequences on body conceptions: evolution of body size standards, new perceptions of health, diet and aesthetic, which need to be clarified. To do this, we conducted a comparative qualitative study implemented in a representative sample of Senegalese adults from Dakar (8 focus groups) and a village from the Kaolack region (6 focus groups). The qualitative study by focus group shows that the urbanization of Senegal has some ambivalent effects on the construction of body size vernacular standards. Indeed, while youth assimilate the modern norms resulting in a stigmatization of any type of fatness, most of aged subjects - especially women - want to gain a massive overweight indicating an economic success and a good integration to the urban sociocultural model of "Progress". Thus, while youth integrate an exigent modern model of body size without fat - diet, intense physical activity - old women integrate an exigent animist model of body size very fatty - fattening practices, corticoid-steroids intake - potentially dangerous for health. Today, with the acculturation process of Senegal, two models of body size coexist: (i) an extreme animist model where old women living in poor suburbs want to indicate a strong control of the nature, expressed by an important gain of weight, (ii) an extreme modern model where youth influenced by the urban technical development would like to access to a body detached from the nature effects, expressed by a very thin body.
Bodies out of bounds: anthropological approaches to obesity practices