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The Experience of the Body in British Indian Women: An Intersectionality perspective

Seegobin, D. (2019). The Experience of the Body in British Indian Women: An Intersectionality perspective. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Body dissatisfaction and eating disorders have been found as existing in South Asian females living in the United Kingdom. However, most research to date has relied on quantitative measures which have focused on a very limited number of variables in relation to the body. For British South Asian women, there is very little understanding of how bodily disturbances occur within more complex systems of inequality and power, rather than solely due to exposure to thinness ideals. As no research exists focusing specifically on the Indian subgroup of this population, this study aims to explore how British Indian women experience their bodies from an intersectionality perspective. More specifically, this study adheres to a feminist phenomenological stance to shed light on how the experience of the body is informed by multiple overlapping identities relating to gender, race and culture which create interlocking systems of oppression which underpin the embodied experience of the body.

Nine women participated in semi-structured interviews which were analysed using an Interpretative Phenomenologica Approach. Three overarching themes were identified: “The Gendered Expectations of being an Indian Woman” which captures the three distinct experiences of objectification, social comparison and cultural conflict, fuelled by the gendered and racial expectations of being a British Indian woman; “Family Shaming and Criticism” describes how the body is the interface through which women experience criticism, shame and humiliation by their families and community, and “The Journey Towards Coping and Resilience” reflects how the overlap of being a female of Indian origin and brought up in Western society converge to influence how women develop strategies to cope with difficult experiences associated with their bodies.

These findings are reviewed in relation to the wider literature, grounded in a feminist perspective. This study makes links between culture, power and the body to help understand how these inform the many oppressive systems British Indian women navigate through. This study highlights various forms of relational connection needed to encourage empowerment, resilience and strength, both within women and their wider supportive systems to ultimately disrupt and oppose overriding systems of power and prejudice. The implications for clinical practice, training and future research are discussed.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
[thumbnail of Seegobin_FINAL THESIS library version without case study_Redacted.pdf]
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