Urban Oceania

Exploring Urban Social Change in Oceania

Reading Group Summary: September 21st, 2020

Article Discussed: Becker, A. E. (2004). Television, disordered eating, and young women in Fiji: Negotiating body image and identity during rapid social change. Culture, medicine and psychiatry, 28(4), 533-559.

Mai Rose

Summary: There is a consensus that media imagery has a strong impact on the body image of adolescents, particularly girls. In America, consumer culture plays a role in supporting the notion of identity as something created and achieved by the individual, especially through the usage of visual props and commodities. This ideology is somewhat akin to self-fetishisation as an avenue to empowerment, as reshaping and remaking of the body becomes a validation of autonomy. However, media as a socio-cultural context is not well researched and there is almost no data on the effects of media on diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Becker (2004) studies the impact of T.V to a rural community in West Fiji, by conducting open-ended interviews on 30 adolescent girls in 1998, three years after the introduction of T.V. Prior to the 1990s, anorexia and bulimia nervosa were considered rare and non-existent in ethnic Fijians. Unlike western cultures, Fijian girls are conventionally not told to change their natural bodies through means such as diet or exercise. Although native Fijians admire a body that is jubu (sturdy/robust), there is no pressure to achieve this shape. T.V in Fiji has certainly redefined local aesthetics, and there is a new admiration for thinness that motivates the internalisation of self-discipline in eating and exercise. Moreover, there is a new desire among young girls to position themselves competitively with others. Becker, however, concludes that it is premature to assume that the psychological reasoning behind eating disorders in Fiji is alike to western contexts. Television characters are not admired for their bodies alone, but also traits such as bravery, industriousness, and strength. Traits that may be appealing in an increasingly globalised world.


  • Lucas Watt

    I am a Post-Doctoral researcher on the ERC-funded TransOcean Project at the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Norway. My portion of the project sets out to analyze maritime mobilities, exchange, and conservation, in the increasingly securitised region of Oceania. I graduated with a PhD from the School of Media and Communications at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University. My ethnographic fieldwork in Suva Fiji analyses how rural-urban migrants living in “informal settlements” articulate tradition in urban spaces.

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