Mimi Nichter

2001 Margaret Mead Award Recipient

Mimi Nichter, Ph.D. (1995, University of Arizona) is the recipient of the 2001 Margaret Mead Award. Nichter has translated anthropological expertise in public health issues, particularly teen’s and women’s health concerns, to a more broadly concerned public. Following a record of publications on women and children’s health issues, Nichter’s book, Fat Talk: What Girls and Their Parents Say About Dieting (2000,Harvard University Press), shows how culture, body image, and dieting are inextricably linked. Using the girls’ own “talk,” Nichter employs anthropological research to focus attention not just on the pathology of dieting girls, but also on the strengths evidenced by girls’ narratives. As stated in a nominating letter, “The “fat talk” of the title is a routine through which girls ritually lament their own bodily flaws. Yet, rather than represent this widespread practice as pathological or indicative of girls’ low self-esteem, Nichter argues that “fat talk” is a rich and complex resource for expressing solidarity, with intricate functions in adolescent interaction.” Nichter points to the importance of understanding adolescent girls on their own cultural grounds, and demonstrates how prevention and intervention cannot be understood without the girls’ own narratives. Nichter has conveyed her anthropological research on these issues and others, including women’s use of tobacco, to policy organizations including The Office of the Surgeon General, the National Institutes of Health, and the World Heath Organization. Her work has been widely disseminated in the media.