Published August 25, 2021 | Version v1
Journal article Open

Is obesity just a health issue? Metaphorical framings of obesity in the People's Daily

  • 1. Universitat Pompeu Fabra


Obesity has become a major health concern in China, as it is elsewhere, and so health communication on obesity in Chinese discourse deserves more scholarly attention. In this paper, to investigate how obesity is metaphorically framed in the People’s Daily, one of China’s major official media outlets, we use the Discourse Dynamics Approach to identify evaluative positionings towards obesity in 98 obesity-related editorials. Based on our analysis, we posit three groupings of linguistic metaphors in the editorials that frame different aspects of obesity: JOURNEY, WAR and MONEY. Within the groupings, our analysis finds three systematic metaphors surrounding weight-loss, i.e., LOSING WEIGHT IS A NATIONAL JOURNEY TOWARDS HEALTH; LOSING WEIGHT IS A FIGHT FOR NATIONAL SECURITY; LOSING WEIGHT IS AN INVESTMENT BOTH AT THE INDIVIDUAL AND NATIONAL LEVELS. All represent obesity and obese individuals negatively and are embedded in specific Chinese sociocultural contexts, jointly framing obesity as a matter of national collective social character rather than just an individual health issue. While JOURNEY and WAR express a collectivist view of the issue, the MONEY grouping seems to indicate a neoliberal, individualist perspective emphasising the maintenance of health as part of citizenship. By comparison, similar stories on health issues surrounding obesity in Western media show differences in their discourse models.



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