Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Human Communications

First Advisor

Christina R. Foust, Ph.D.




People living with food-related illnesses find themselves subjugated by commonly held ideologies causing awkwardness in social situations. The current study is a qualitative analysis addressing how people with celiac disease (CD) navigate social situations in light of dominant beliefs that influence behaviors. Initially, I identify macro-level patriarchal, religious, sexist, ableist and etiquette-related commensality ideologies that disadvantage those with CD. Drawing from the communication narrative sense making (CNSM) theory that supports storytelling and memorable messages as a sense-making tool for individuals diagnosed with chronic illness and their family members, this work highlights retrospective stories and memorable messages from 20 randomly selected interviews (out of 66 conducted). Further, I discuss how individual identity evolves while redefining "truths" in light of having a disease.

Three overarching themes emerge from the analysis: 1) questioning ideologies to form revised "truths," 2) familial adaptation or non-adaptive responses, and 3) identity transformation. The first theme contemplates what is considered "true" depending on dominant ideologies on food-related expectations. The second theme examines social stigma that can result when a person in a given social group no longer conforms to these basic, assumed beliefs; or conversely, familial compassion that occurs when family and friends do conform. Finally, the third theme traces the evolution of an individual's transformation when faced with redefining his or her identity, standing with courage and fortitude to influence those around him/her to align with new "revised truths" that may yield compliance or resistance.

This study expands the current knowledge by associating how those with food sensitivities (FS) or CD find themselves subjugated by dominant ideologies that permeate behavior. The dissertation adds to the communication studies conversation by illuminating a seldom-studied population of adults living with the hidden disability of FS or CD, and expands the CNSM by contributing a concept I am calling a "homeostatic shift," or the process where rituals are disrupted, causing the person with CD to enter into a state of liminality or transition, reforming "truths" and eventually shifting to a new state of equilibrium living with the realization that all experiences thereafter are shrouded with the veil of disease.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Jean Elizabeth Duane

File size

255 p.

File format






Available for download on Sunday, August 01, 2021