That I cannot Tell You Either: An Autoethnographic Illustration Practice.

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


My doctoral research concerns how using illustration, clay and the museum can come together to explore women’s body image through two case studies. One case study addresses western idealised body image discourse by responding to gendered visual messaging in museum collections, the other utilises my personal experience of poor body image and eating disorders within the childhood home. I aim to bring both case studies together to demonstrate how cultural discourse affects macro and micro experience.

Illustration is “a ‘working art’ that visually communicates context to audience.” (Male, 2017, p.5). Moving beyond the page challenges a discipline concerned with context and dissemination when creating audience specific work (Doyle, 2014), however, the intimacy and close engagement with an object illustration may prompt discussion and reflection within the audience when illustrating experiences of body image. Illustrating domestic objects depicting body image experience situates the home as where my body image preoccupation began; conversations occur, family dine together, and gendered behaviour is formed. Encountering seemingly familiar objects (Fig. 1) out of context may prompt disconcerting feelings within the viewer, placing a spotlight on body image conversations within the environment where identity develops.

Culture can be understood as a series of practices that produce and exchange meaning within society (Hall, 1997). Although there may be many interpretations of any topic, it is expected that women in western society will experience and interpret representations of body image messaging in similar ways (Hall, 1997) as “...cultural meanings are not only ‘in the head’. They organize and regulate social practices, influence our conduct and consequently have real, practical effects” (Hall, 1997 p.3). Peers, parents, and the media affect our body image (Keery et al. 2004). Living environments can prove a particularly difficult and complex negotiation when developing identity and a woman’s body (Fig.2). A family which highly regards appearance and cultural ideals can impact on a daughter’s view of herself, potentially leading “to greater difficulties with disordered eating and weight concerns” (Kluck, 2010 p.8; Fig. 3). As body dissatisfaction has become somewhat normal (Grogan, 2017) and an almost expected conversation amongst women (Lin et al., 2021), this research suggests it may be beneficial to design illustration workshops that places body image issues as a manifestation of a societal issue with non-clinical populations.


Doyle, S. (2014) Acknowledging a ‘missing history?’. Journal of Illustration, 1 (2), 177-187.

Grogan, S. (2017) Body image. Understanding body dissatisfaction in men, women and children. 3rd ed. Oxon: Routledge.

Hall, S. ed. (1997) Representation: cultural representations and signifying practices. London: Sage Publications.

Keery, H., van den Berg, P. and Thompson, K, J. (2004) An evaluation of the Tripartite Influence Model of body dissatisfaction and eating disturbance with adolescent girls. Body Image, 1, 237-251.

Kluck, S, A. (2010) Family influence on disordered eating: the role of body image dissatisfaction. Body Image, 7, 8-14.

Male, A. (2017) Illustration: A Theoretical & Contextual Perspective. 2nd ed. London: Bloomsbury.

Lin, L., Flynn, M. and O’Dell, D. (2021) Measuring positive and negative body talk in men and women: the development and validation of the Body Talk Scale. Body Image, 37, 106–116.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 5 Jan 2023
Event2023 International Symposium on Autoethnography and Narrative. - Online., United States
Duration: 3 Jan 20235 Jan 2023


Conference2023 International Symposium on Autoethnography and Narrative.
Abbreviated title23ISAN
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address

Bibliographical note

Due to the often sensitive nature of Autoethnography, access to the symposium recordings were restricted to symposium attendees who were asked to be mindful regarding sharing links. ISAN organiser Tony E. Adams, PhD states via email correspondence:

You can now access the FINAL version of the 2023 International Symposium on Autoethnography and Narrative on Enter the password: [...]

A few reminders:

• The program located via the link above is only available to those who have registered for the conference (so far, more than 300 people have registered!). Please be mindful of sharing the program with others, especially given that some of the links link us to intimate autoethnographic presentations not intended for a general audience.

• The conference will occur on Eastern Time Zone. (Click here to access a Time Zone converter.)

• There are two sessions scheduled for many of the time slots: one session in Zoom Room A and one session in Zoom Room B. The Zoom links are active only in the FINAL version of the program.

• Although there will be several live sessions, the majority of the individual presentations have been prerecorded. If you are interested in attending a panel with linked presentations, we encourage you to view the presentations before the symposium begins.

• Symposium activities will only be available to those who registered for the symposium. Please recognize that any registrant could share or record sessions without permission. We cannot control these unethical practices, only forbid them. If any participant is caught sharing or recording a session without permission, they will be banned from this symposium and all future symposia.


  • autoethnographic illustration
  • body image
  • object illustration
  • Autoethnography


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