Folk Devils or Moral Entrepreneurs? Gap Bridging in the Social Studies of Pro-ana Communities
In moral panic studies, pro-ana communities are usually considered folk devils. Namely, pro-ana culture is investigated as an object of ‘moral crusades’ led by scientists, physicians, activists, politicians, mass media, parents and many other social actors concerned about the epidemics of restrictive eating disorders. In this paper, I put aside this strand of moral panic research and discuss the role of pro-ana communities as facilitators of moral panic to bridge the macro-micro divide in scientific investigations of the pro-ana phenomenon. I propose to examine pro-ana people as entrepreneurs of the moral panic over obesity. This means that pro-ana communities can be analysed as creating and spreading contemporary legends on obesity in their communication processes. Furthermore, I discuss and exemplify the roles of pro-ana people as amplifiers, supporters and enforcers of this panic. In addition, while reconnecting micro and macro levels in the explanation of the pro-ana phenomenon, I contribute to the development of moral panic theory, as the application of the concept of ‘moral panic’ to pro-ana communities facilitates niche formation in biomedical social research.