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Hand, Jane
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Subjects: DA, R1
This thesis investigates the role and function of visual images produced by both central government and Unilever P.L.C. from 1940 to c.1992 in constructing knowledge about diet, disease and the body. It examines historical instances of the use of visual images – posters, leaflets, magazine advertisements, product advertisements and documentary film and television – in promoting healthy eating as a tool of disease prevention. I historicise these images as important ‘vehicles of communication’, reclaiming their importance in understanding the historical development of disease risk as it related to food in wartime and postwar Britain. I have limited the project to analyses of central government health education campaigns centred on food and the advertising output of one multinational food company, Unilever. This selectivity allows for the promotion of the food industry within historical understandings of health education in the twentieth century. Through the analytic lens of visual representation this thesis explores the complexities of understanding disease risk in relation to lifestyle and behaviour choice. Therefore, this thesis contributes to the literature on the historicising of disease, while providing a working model for analysing images as important agents of information provision. I explore and decode visual representations, sensitive to the complex ways meanings are produced, circulated and understood in specific socio-cultural contexts. As a collective these images do not conform to a visual ‘look’, but they do perform important functions beyond their intended use. They repeatedly reference gender norms, the primacy of the body and the enduring focus on modernity and the ‘modern’ in ‘selling’ health and new lifestyles. While such images construct food, gender and the body in different ways, this thesis suggests that collectively they represent food as a modern medicine.
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