Abject Relations presents an alternative approach to anorexia, long considered the epitome of a Western obsession with individualism, beauty, self-control, and autonomy. Through detailed ethnographic investigations, Megan Warin looks at the heart of what it means to live with anorexia on a daily basis. Participants describe difficulties with social relatedness, not being at home in their body, and feeling disgusting and worthless. For them, anorexia becomes a seductive and empowering practice that cleanses bodies of shame and guilt, becomes a friend and support, and allows them to forge new social relations.
Unraveling anorexia's complex relationships and contradictions, Warin provides a new theoretical perspective rooted in a socio-cultural context of bodies and gender. Abject Relations departs from conventional psychotherapy approaches and offers a different "logic," one that involves the shifting forces of power, disgust, and desire and provides new ways of thinking that may have implications for future treatment regimes.
Anorexia and Mimetic Desire
René Girard Michigan State University Press, 2008 Library of Congress RC552.A5G57 2013 | Dewey Decimal 616.85262
René Girard shows that all desires are contagious—and the desire to be thin is no exception. In this compelling new book, Girard ties the anorexia epidemic to what he calls mimetic desire: a desire imitated from a model. Girard has long argued that, far from being spontaneous, our most intimate desires are copied from what we see around us. In a culture obsessed with thinness, the rise of eating disorders should be no surprise. When everyone is trying to slim down, Girard asks, how can we convince anorexic patients to have a healthy outlook on eating? Mixing theoretical sophistication with irreverent common sense, Girard denounces a “culture of anorexia” and takes apart the competitive impulse that fuels the game of conspicuous non-consumption. He shows that showing off a slim physique is not enough—the real aim is to be skinnier than one’s rivals. In the race to lose the most weight, the winners are bound to be thinner and thinner. Taken to extremes, this tendency to escalation can only lead to tragic results. Featuring a foreword by neuropsychiatrist Jean-Michel Oughourlian and an introductory essay by anthropologist Mark R. Anspach, the volume concludes with an illuminating conversation between René Girard, Mark R. Anspach, and Laurence Tacou.
Feeding Anorexia challenges prevailing assumptions regarding the notorious difficulty of curing anorexia nervosa. Through a vivid chronicle of treatments at a state-of-the-art hospital program, Helen Gremillion reveals how the therapies participate unwittingly in culturally dominant ideals of gender, individualism, physical fitness, and family life that have contributed to the dramatic increase in the incidence of anorexia in the United States since the 1970s. She describes how strategies including the meticulous measurement of patients' progress in terms of body weight and calories consumed ultimately feed the problem, not only reinforcing ideas about the regulation of women's bodies, but also fostering in many girls and women greater expertise in the formidable constellation of skills anorexia requires. At the same time, Gremillion shows how contradictions and struggles in treatment can help open up spaces for change.
Feeding Anorexia is based on fourteen months of ethnographic research in a small inpatient unit located in a major teaching and research hospital in the western United States. Gremillion attended group, family, and individual therapy sessions and medical staff meetings; ate meals with patients; and took part in outings and recreational activities. She also conducted over one hundred interviews-with patients, parents, staff, and clinicians. Among the issues she explores are the relationship between calorie-counting and the management of consumer desire; why the "typical" anorexic patient is middle-class and white; the extent to which power differentials among clinicians, staff, and patients model "anorexic families"; and the potential of narrative therapy to constructively reframe some of the problematic assumptions underlying more mainstream treatments.
Rudolph M. Bell University of Chicago Press, 1985 Library of Congress BX4656.B45 1985 | Dewey Decimal 305.90824
Is there a resemblance between the contemporary anorexic teenager counting every calorie in her single-minded pursuit of thinness, and an ascetic medieval saint examining her every desire? Rudolph M. Bell suggests that the answer is yes.
"Everyone interested in anorexia nervosa . . . should skim this book or study it. It will make you realize how dependent upon culture the definition of disease is. I will never look at an anorexic patient in the same way again."—Howard Spiro, M.D., Gastroenterology
"[This] book is a first-class social history and is well-documented both in its historical and scientific portions."—Vern L. Bullough, American Historical Review
"A significant contribution to revisionist history, which re-examines events in light of feminist thought. . . . Bell is particularly skillful in describing behavior within its time and culture, which would be bizarre by today's norms, without reducing it to the pathological."—Mary Lassance Parthun, Toronto Globe and Mail
"Bell is both enlightened and convincing. His book is impressively researched, easy to read, and utterly fascinating."—Sheila MacLeod, New Statesman