Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI hosts Professor Viren Swami for special lecture as part of the RCSI ‘Appreciating Culture - lecture and event series’

24 January 2017

“Are we all thin enough yet? The globalisation of the thin ideal and the homogenisation of beauty”

Professor Viren Swami, Professor of Social Psychology at the Department of Psychology, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, will be delivering a guest lecture in RCSI titled “Are we all thin enough yet? The globalisation of the thin ideal and the homogenisation of beauty” as part of the RCSI Appreciating Culture - lecture and event series. 

The RCSI Appreciating Culture - lecture and event series will feature a variety of events with invited international and national guest speakers, focusing on various conceptual themes centred on culture. The aim of the series is to facilitate and encourage RCSI staff and students to widen their perspective on culture, to highlight and learn about various customs and traditions, languages and practices. The inaugural lecture “the globalisation of the thin ideal and the homogenisation of beauty” explores the ways in which we see ourselves, and others.

Speaking in advance of the lecture, Professor Hannah McGee, Dean of Medicine and Health Sciences, said “RCSI has been known for many decades as a truly international place to study and work. In the spirit of fostering and embracing our international status we are now launching the “RCSI Appreciating Culture - lecture and event series” for our staff and students”.

“We are delighted to welcome Professor Viren Swami to RCSI as the inaugural speaker for this exciting new initiative which will further enhance our uniquely international education setting and multicultural environment.” concluded Professor McGee.

Speaking about the talk, Professor Viren Swami said “Thinness is now valued in most parts of the world and this has an impact on rising rates of negative body image and disordered eating but there is things we can do about these negative effects. In this talk I'll explore why women experience such strong pressure to attain a thin ideal, beginning with a historical overview and when did thinness become the ideal for women? We’ll then examine whether thinness is idealised across all cultures and look at the impact of modernisation and Westernisation on the globalisation of a thin ideal.” 

“Given that an important component of women’s body dissatisfaction is the discrepancy between ideal and current body sizes, understanding how body size ideals are culturally shaped and transmitted remains an important task for scholars. In this talk, I begin by examining cross-cultural patterns of women’s body size ideals.” 

“Evidence will be presented to indicate that, contrary to stereotypical depictions, the largest differences in body size ideals are no longer found between Western and non-Western cultures. Instead, differences in body size ideals are now largest between sites that differ in socioeconomic status.”

“While this has important implications of understanding corporeal experiences in a globalised world, I also show how some groups actively carve subcultural spaces in which embodiment is negotiated and beauty ideals challenged.” concluded Professor Swami.

RCSI is ranked in the top 250 institutions worldwide and joint 1st place in the Republic of Ireland in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2016-2017). It is an international not-for-profit health sciences institution, with its headquarters in Dublin, focused on education and research to drive improvements in human health worldwide.